What is Lean Writing?
Lean Writing applies the principles of the Lean Methodology to develop content for users and staff. It is a way of writing that focuses on maximising the value to the user and minimising waste. It’s ideal for creating user documents in projects that use the Agile Methodology.
Maximising value to the user
Lean Writing can create a lot more clarity within the project planning, addressing key issues such as:
- Who really needs information?
- When do they need it, and can we phase it in?
- What is the purpose of the document?
- How can we shorten the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes?
- What does the customer actually need and want?
- How can we improve the content easily over time?
Everything not adding value to the customer is considered to be waste. This includes:
- Writing unnecessary pages and documents
- Publishing over-complete documentation for multiple configurations or audiences
- Avoidable repetition of content
- Authors writing the same thing in different ways (which results in inconsistency and poorer quality)
- Slow and unnecessary reviews
- Time lost due to unevenness and gaps in the writing project
- Slow internal communication
These are also known as the three wastes of non-value-adding work: overwork, overburden and unevenness.
When it comes to writing the document, it requires writing in a modular, component, based way. To anyone used to dealing with databases, it’s a familiar concept. You can take these chunks of text and re-use them in more than one place. You can arrange them in different ways to create a range of documents. For example: create documents tailored to a particular role, publish a paper quick reference document, and publish a version that can be read on a mobile phone. You can make a change in one place and see that change ripple through all the documents that use that piece of information within them.
Often, you’ll find that content is repeated, and you’ll often be able to reduce these to a single topic. You can re-use the content to publish the information as Web pages, Word documents and PDF files. You can also create different versions of the documents for different audiences or focused on a particular subject.