Writing that’s meant to be seen and not read – Mike Crittenden:
Someone wrote a gigantic doc that provides zero value because nobody will ever read it. But the fact that it was long made people trust that they know what they’re doing. What an insidious form of preening. The part I hate most (as someone who’s ranted about how everyone’s writing is too long and too wordy) is that it’s such an effective strategy for building trust. Sometimes the easiest way to show your boss or skip level that they don’t have to micromanage you is to give them a super long doc that they can pretend to read. Replacing that doc with a one pager that they’ll actually read doesn’t have the same effect, because what gets read gets nitpicked and questioned and debated and bikeshedded. Remember, negativity is another insidious form of preening, and where better to “show value” via negativity than in the comments of a Google doc?
Mike goes on to suggest that this antipattern leaves to options: writing short documents that lead to micromanaging, or writing long documents that no one reads.
I’m not entirely sure I buy that dichotomy, but it is certainly one that exists in some organizations. If you’re stuck in that situation, I would say that you are better off picking the first option. Sure, you may have to deal with micromanagement from managers and leaders who do actually read the docs, but that interaction then become a starting point for dealing with those behaviors.
If you write the long docs that no one reads, the situation will never improve.
…and I should note that the same holds true for presentation slides, where I find this problem tends to be even worse than it is with documents.