Part 3: Adaptations

Collaborative Documents

Oral Presentations
Telephone Calls



Writing methods generally presume that the writer works alone. In most working contexts, however, professionals frequently work together to produce a report, a proposal, a set of specifications, and other kinds of documents. They may work as a team with one member selected to coordinate their efforts. They may delegate a writing task to someone they supervise. Or they may, themselves, be asked to write something for a manager or executive to whom they report. The approach we have described adapts easily and naturally to all three situations.

The procedure below is for team writing. In the comments that follow, we suggest several variations that adapt it further for delegated writing.




The key to working collaboratively is to develop in the team a single conceptual understanding of the overall intentions for the project and an overview of the document's structure. With that understanding, team members can work on their own individual portions within a sense of the whole.

Exploring both the concept space and the potential readers helps provide team members with a sense of context. However, multiple impressions are forged into a single view when the team jointly writes the Focus Statement and develops the first few levels of the Tree. Further integration takes place when the team as a whole reviews the completed Tree.

Since team members have copies of the complete Tree, they have the information they need to write their sections to fit into the whole and to be consistent with other portions.

Verifying and Revising are best done by one person, preferably the team leader. If the document is too long or if the deadline is too near, editing may have to be distributed. If so, one person -- again, the team leader, if possible -- should make a final pass through the completed document to correct any inconsistencies introduced by the different editors.

Delegated writing, where one person is responsible for the document and another does most or all of the detailed planning, writing, and editing, can follow a similar procedure. Supervisor and writer should begin by setting a schedule both can accept. They should next Explore the content and readers together, if only briefly. The writer then goes off to write the Focus Statement and develop the Tree alone. Before writing the document, however, the two review the Focus Statement and the Tree to be sure the project is on target. The writer then writes the draft and does as much Verifying and Revising as the document warrants and the schedule permits. This should be done before giving a copy of the document to the supervisor since handing over a first draft wastes everyone's time and can create negative impressions. After the draft is edited or commented on by the supervisor, the writer normally makes the changes called for, and the document review process is iterated as many times as needed.

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