Collaborative Business Writing

Collaborative writing is often simply defined as a project or piece of work that is created by a multiple of people combined together. It has become especially useful in many companies that prefer employees to work together on a project or require a large assignment to be divided into smaller parts in order to be accomplished on time. After each employee has finished their share, a group leader or editor works to assemble the parts together to create a final work or project.

Clarifying the Objective
Once a collaborative project has been created, it is important to clarify the objective and outline what needs to be completed. Some objectives will outline the necessary components that need to be completed, as well as address which employee should complete it. Collaborative writing can be tough to start, so it’s best when members have some sort of shared goal and are aware of shared responsibility and accountability. Once the objective is established and the members know their role, they can benefit from the shared resources, authority and eventual rewards of working together.
Define the objective:
• What are we doing this project for?
• What do we hope to accomplish?
• What parts/aspects need to be addressed in the project?
• What processes should be done in the project?

Practical Writing Approaches
Collaborative business writing has become a great tool to better design group processes and procedures used in a company. Because of this, collaborative writing has become a practical writing approach that many companies have begun to adapt for their employees. In collaborative business environments, each employee is able to contribute to the project as a whole, while still being able to edit or revise work as needed. Many collaborative groups even allow for coworker’s to make comments on or edit each other’s work, allowing more views and ideas throughout the project. In addition, since the collaborative writing process can be done almost anywhere, it is easier for employees to include work from a variety of areas, such as from across the state, the nation or even the world. 0
Benefits:
• Improves collaborative processes
• Increase member communication
• Edit/peer review project segments
• Increase contributions from multiple parties

Collaborative Writing Strategies
There is a number of different collaboration writing strategies that companies can use to fit the project they need completed. Some strategies rely on a small group of employees working on one piece at the same time. Other strategies involve multiple employees working on projects in individual roles to bring together later. Companies will choose a strategy to use based on a number of factors, including the size of the project, number of employees involved and what sort of deadline the project has.
Some examples of writing strategies:
• Parallel construction
• Sequential writing
• Integrated writing

Collaborative Writing Patterns
A collaborative pattern refers to the ‘pattern’ in which employees will work together to complete the project. These patterns can be used with a set collaborative strategy or they can be used as an independent tool. The collaborative pattern that is used will focus on what members of the team will complete what tasks and how the rest of the team will work to support the main goal. Different patterns require a single person to perform a task, such as creating an outline or editing peer submissions, while other patterns require a group of employees to work on one task together in order to complete it. The collaborative pattern of the team depends on a number of factors, such as the type of project at hand, how many members are available, and the individual talents of each team member.
Common collaborative patterns:
• The team collectively plans and outlines the project, and each employee completes their own part and is later compiled together into a whole piece.
• One individual of the team plans and writes a project draft while the group later revises it
• The team plans and writes the draft as a group while one or more other members revise the draft without any additional input.
• One member will dictate various parts of the project while another member transcribes and edits a final draft.
Source: Collaborative Business Writing Workshop

River Street Consultant

Risk Management

The risk management technique will vary according to the severity of the risk and the current stability of the organization. You will choose between reducing the risk, transferring the risk, avoiding the risk, and accepting the risk when determining which technique to use.

Reduce the Risk

Risk reduction is a common technique used in business. It is necessary when there is no possibility of removing the risk such as in using machines. When you reduce the risk, you limit the severity of the risk and the likelihood of the risk occurring. When determining how to best reduce the risk, it is necessary to establish which method of reduction will be the most effective. For example, one risk reduction technique may reduce the risk of loss more than others, but it could also be more expensive to implement.

Examples of Risk Reduction:

  • Retrofit a building to for severe weather
  • Sprinkler systems with fire alarms
  • Training programs
  • Security system
  • Machine maintenance

 

Transfer the Risk

The act of transferring a risk is also called risk sharing. This is often done in business relationships. For example, working with contracting labor or vendors may require a transfer of risk. The transfer of risk does not remove all risk from you, but it does offer some protection. The most common method used to transfer the risk is insurance. The insurance company takes on the risk from the policyholder.

When working with other parties, insurance is not enough to cover the liability. It is necessary to review contractual obligations. You do not want to take all of the risk in a contractual relationship. There are different ways to transfer the risk:

  • Indemnification: Place the legal responsibilities on an established party.
  • Certificates of insurance: Require specific levels insurance. Certificates are proof of specific coverage.
  • Additional insurance status: A business is added on to another company’s policy. It offers protection if indemnification is lost and prevents subrogating.

 

Avoid the Risk

Avoiding risks is not always possible. When avoiding risks, however, the purpose is to eliminate the risk or simply not engage it. Risk avoidance occurs regularly. It occurs when you decide against a business proposition or refuse to expand the company. Eliminating risk by avoiding may seem like the safe route, but it is not always practical. If you avoid every risk that comes along, you will also avoid great business opportunities.

Always consider both the risks and rewards that a new situation brings. For example, expanding the business may be costly. There is always the chance, however, that the expansion will pay for itself and increase profits. Before avoiding a risk, make sure that you are not overlooking and opportunity. The severity of the risk will help you determine if it is something that you truly need to avoid.

Accept the Risk

There are times when it is necessary to accept risks. When you accept risks, it is necessary to choose small risks that will not have a large impact on the organization, and they can include reduced risks. The cost of the risk should be smaller than insuring or avoiding the risk. A common act of risk acceptance is refusing insurance. When accepting a risk, you are accepting full responsibility if something goes wrong. This includes legal and financial responsibility.

There are two different types of acceptance. Active acceptance occurs when a risk is identified and a plan is established should you need to face the consequences of the risk. Creating a plan of action helps you determine the best plan of action without the emotional impact that comes with facing the consequences. Passive acceptance occurs when there is no plan in place for an accepted risk. Passive risk occurs when the risk is so small that it is not worth the time and energy to plan a course of action.

Source:  Risk Assessment and Management Workshop

River Street Consultant

Blending Mentoring and Coaching

The Basic Differences
There are differences between coaching and mentoring. Each typically has goals to accomplish, but the methods are vastly different.
Coaching has the following characteristics:
• Interaction is usually not voluntary
• The interaction usually is for a set amount of time.
• The interaction is structured and meetings are typically confined to scheduled meetings
• Coach does not necessarily have to be an expert on the coaching topic
• Generally, the interaction is short-termed and focus usually in one or two areas of development
• The focus is on a particular job function developmental issue
• The goal is to produce a more immediate change or result
• Coaching is typically targeting specific opportunities for improvement

Mentoring has the following characteristics:
• Interaction is usually voluntary
• Relationship is usually long-term over an extensive period of time
• Interaction is less structured with more causal than structured meetings
• Mentor is usually regarded as an expert in their field and is a resource to the protégé
• Career development is the overall goal of mentoring
• The goal is to develop areas that the protégé deems necessary for their development for future roles
• Mentoring targets the entire career path of a protégé
Let us see how we can blend the two models for an effective development program for your employees.

Blending the Two Models
Depending on the type of working environment, you have and the overall goal of your employee, you may want to combine the characteristics of coaching with mentorship. What you decide to use depends on the current work environment, the type of advancement opportunity your employee has and the time you or someone else have to give to develop the target employee.
There is no right or wrong answer when determining which characteristic you want to combine. Simply pick the ones that will help you achieve maximum results. For example, you may want to blend the more casual approach to meeting with your employee with a targeted area of development. On the other hand, you may want to blend the relationship-building aspect of mentoring to the planned meeting intervals.
The approach you determine is considered the best for you environment. Here is a list of benefits you realize when you combine coaching with mentorship:
• Increased flexibility
• Allows you to supervise your employee while acting autonomous
• Allows your employee to determine what they want to develop
• Your employee will feel more empowered in their development
• You can enlist the help of other managers in the development of your employee
• Greater satisfaction for both you and your employee
In essence, blending the two models provides more flexibility with the monitoring you need to ensure your employee is on the path to career development.

Adapting the GROW Model for Mentoring
Adapting the GROW model to mentoring is very easy to do. When coaching, the GROW model is used as a guide for the coach to structure their dialogue with their employee. The coach develops the goal and guides the employee to reach a goal the coach selects.
In mentoring, the GROW model is used as a guide to questioning the protégé on when development path they want seek. Here the mentor asks open-ended questions that form the basis of the mentoring program. Here are some questions you can use when you want to use GROW for mentoring purposes:
• Goal: What are your career goals? What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
• Reality: Where are you in relation to your career goal? What are you lacking that you need to have in order to reach that career goal?
• Options: What are activities you think will help you develop those missing skills? How do you want to go about developing the skills necessary to advance your career?
• Wrap it up: What is your plan? How do you want to go about this?
Focusing on the Relationship
When you coach, the relationship is hierarchial, meaning that you are driving the process and the employee must respond. Mentoring is not meant to be set up that way. Mentoring is a shoulder-to-shoulder type relationship. In coaching your focus is on reaching goal with a targeted development plan.
On the other hand, mentoring is sharing and guiding your protégé. It requires less structure but more relationship building. Being a mentor to someone creates a special relationship where the mentor watches over the protégé, guides them, and corrects them in different situations. There is not a set intervention. It is constant awareness, looking out for pitfalls and political traps that are common in the work environment.
Mentors also become more involved in the protégé’s life, demonstrating caring, understanding, and guiding them through it from the employment perspective. Deep personal issues should be taken care of by professionals; however, guiding them to that professional level is a mentor’s job.
Here are some behaviors that help to foster a good relationship between a mentor and a protégé:
• Demonstrate caring by listening for issues that are not readily disclosed to you. Perhaps you over hear a conversation where your protégé is struggling with something. Demonstrate care by encouraging your protégé to discuss it with you.
• Demonstrate understanding by acknowledging and empathizing with your employees situation. Take the time to fully grasp what is going on and acknowledge it is real and that you would feel the same if you were in their shoes.
• Demonstrate listening by giving your undivided attention and avoid interruptions when talking with them like answering the telephone or looking at email. Notate and mirror things back to your protégé to demonstrate you are listening.
• Demonstrate respect by keeping the relationship professional at all times. Avoid degrading your protégé or using causal language in front of others. Show you respect your employee as if they were an equal.
Keeping an eye on the relationship is just as important as keeping focus on the goal. The mentor-protégé relationship is delicate because the employee must see the value of the relationship. If they do not see a relationship, then the purpose for mentoring is gone.
Source: Coaching and Mentoring workshop

River Street Consultant

Writing Skills and Proposal Writing




Spelling and Grammar

Paying attention to proper spelling and grammar is general good practice, and it will make your editing process a lot easier. Although you don’t need to worry about perfection at this point, it is worthwhile to keep some basic spelling and grammar tips in mind.

  • Remember basic rules, such as, “I before e, except after c, and when sounded like a, as in neighbor and weigh.”
  • Proposals should usually use the third person (it, they), or rarely the second person (we). Never use the first person (I, me, she, and he).
  • Acronyms and texting slang do not belong in a proposal (or in any business document, for that matter).
  • Watch for correct spelling but incorrect usage, such as, “Their were too many ponies in the stall.” This is one of the biggest things that spell check misses (although Microsoft Office is now capable of checking for it).
  • Know what errors you commonly make so that you can make an effort to correct them.
  • Writing well takes practice. Read and write often!
  • Invest in at least one good grammar reference book. Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a classic, while Lauren Kessler’s When Words Collide is a more recent, accessible desktop reference. A good dictionary and thesaurus are an essential purchase.
  • Make use of available tools, such as spell check, dictionaries, thesauri, and people directories. (Note that we said spell check is a tool, not a solution – it can be wrong, too!)
  • If you are stuck on a sentence, try reading it out loud. Or, highlight it and come back to it later.
  • Always re-read your work. Have someone else read it too, if possible. (We will talk about peer review later on in the course.)

 

Working with Words

Choosing the correct word can make the difference between comprehension and confusion. Take the time to make sure your words reflect what you really want to say.

Some things to watch out for:

  • Proposals should be objective rather than subjective. This means leave your opinions out! For example, instead of saying, “Last year’s numbers were abysmal,” give the exact statistic and let the reader draw their own conclusion.
  • Include the appropriate level of detail in each sentence and paragraph. Too little detail will leave the reader confused; too much detail and they may become bored. (This is where a good understanding of your audience comes in handy.)
  • Check to see if you have said the same thing in different ways. This will help make your writing as concise as possible.
  • To see if you have used the right word, try substituting synonyms for your chosen word. For example, what does each of these sentences mean to you?
    • The ruling was fair.
    • The ruling was reasonable.
    • The ruling was just.
  • Be very careful when using jargon, slang, and acronyms. Provide a glossary if necessary.
  • As we mentioned earlier, watch out for instances where you have spelled the word correctly, but used it incorrectly. This is a very common mistake.




Constructing Sentences

There are three main types of sentences:

  • Simple: A single idea expressed with one subject and one verb. (Jim went to the store to get ice cream.)
  • Compound: Two ideas expressed together. (Jim went to the store to get ice cream and got lost on the way.)
  • Complex: A single idea, with a dependent idea. (Jim went to the store to get ice cream after he ate supper.)

Note that in the compound sentence, the secondary part ([he] got lost on the way) would make sense on its own. In the complex sentence, the dependent idea (after he ate supper) cannot stand on its own.

Sometimes, you will also see compound-complex sentences. (Example: Jim went to the store to get ice cream after he ate supper, but got lost on his way.)

In general, keep your sentences as short as possible; ten to fifteen words is the optimum length. If you have used “and” or “but,” or punctuation such as a comma or semicolon, see if you can break the sentence up. Peoples’ attention spans are getting shorter every day, meaning they are more likely to read short paragraphs with short, easy to read sentences.

Another trick to maximize comprehension is to use parallel construction. This means that if you are using several verbs, make them the same tense.

Which sentence is easier to read?

  1. Some common ways of losing weight including joining the gym, walk every day, and having worked out with your family.
  2. Some common ways of losing weight including joining the gym, walking every day, and working out with your family.

As you might guess, the second sentence uses parallel construction.

Persuasive Writing

Did you know that there are some things that everyone responds to? Include these six items in your proposal wherever possible, and you’re guaranteed a “yes” on at least some of your points.

  • Consistency: Make sure your proposal is sending a clear, consistent message. (This is where your goal statement can come in handy.) It is also helpful if your organization is sending the same message.
  • Reciprocity: Give your clients something – they will feel compelled to give back.
  • Social Validation: People tend to follow the crowd. If possible, show how elements in your proposal were successful for people known to the proposal audience.
  • Likability: Be friendly in your proposal. You will not win by badgering, bullying, or insulting.
  • Authority: Establish why you are the experts in this area, and why you are the right people to be making this proposal.
  • Scarcity: Special offer! While supplies last! Limited time only! Create a unique element and, if possible, a sense of urgency and importance in your proposal.

 

Mastering Voice

There are two voices in writing:

  • Active voice, where the writer is doing something. (Example: I bounced the ball.)
  • Passive voice, where something is being done. (Example: The ball was bounced.)

Generally, the active voice is stronger, crisper, and more persuasive. It should be used whenever possible. However, the passive voice is useful when you are delivering bad news, or when you are not sure who performed an action.

 

Creating Paragraphs

A basic paragraph is simply a collection of sentences. A good paragraph, however, is much more than that.

  • It has a beginning, middle, and an end.
  • It focuses on one theme or idea.
  • It ties to the paragraphs before and after it to help build to a logical conclusion.

Typically, paragraphs are structured like this:

  • The beginning should state the key theme in one sentence.
  • The middle should provide support for the key theme in three to five sentences.
  • The end should summarize the key theme in one sentence. It can also provide solutions, give answers, or transition to the next paragraph.

The length guidelines that we have provided here are just that – guidelines. To keep the reader’s interest, you should vary the length of your sentences and your paragraphs.

Creating Strong Transitions

Creating smooth transitions between paragraphs can be a tough task, but it will make your proposal much more effective and much easier to read. It will also help the reader draw a logical path between your points, to your conclusion.

To transition a paragraph, find a common theme between the first paragraph and the second. Then, use that theme as the paragraph’s opening sentence. To cement things together, start your sentence with a transitional word or phrase. Some examples:

  • However
  • Also
  • Likewise
  • Consequently
  • Previously
  • On the other hand
  • In conclusion
  • To illustrate
  • In contrast

Remember, good transitions take time and practice. The payoff will be a stronger proposal and a more convinced reader.

Building to Conclusions

There should be several levels of conclusions in your proposal.

  • Mini-conclusion at the end of each paragraph, tying the main points together, and transitioning to the next paragraph (if appropriate).
  • Conclusion paragraph at the end of each part of a section (sub-section, sub-sub section, etc.), tying all the paragraphs in that section together.
  • Conclusion paragraph at the end of each major section, tying all the sections together.

When writing a conclusion, try asking yourself, “So what?” to help build a strong case. Example:

  • In this paragraph, I am saying that the WidgetMaster can improve assembly line consistency by 45%.
  • So what?
  • Assembly line problems account for 95% of product defects.
  • So what?
  • The WidgetMaster can help reduce product defects by improving consistency in the assembly line by up to 45%.

Make sure that each conclusion supports your main proposal goal. If it doesn’t, that section may need to be revised or eliminated.

River Street Consultant

Source:  Proposal Writing Workshop