Communication - Avoiding Superfluous Bureaucracy of Documentation In Organizations

by Diane M. Hoffmann, ph.d./th.

Back in the 70’s I read a book written by a scientist who said that all systems were breaking down; he gave detailed examples of all levels from hydro plants to businesses, to economy, ecology, etc. He gave the results of a study that had been undertaken by an appointed commission who concluded that the paperwork and bureaucracy of documentation within government could be cut by half and more.

This superfluous bureaucracy of documentation in government and business organizations has not stopped. In fact it has grown parallel to the exponential increase of knowledge.

And it all stems from inefficient communication. I have seen abundant government forms, books and other written materials, that were not revised or expanded as should have been the case, but that were instead totally replaced with new materials. Somebody, somewhere in the bureaucracy of government didn’t know that something already existed that could be added to or improved upon. No one could even command a consistency of style and format.

Every time a new person is appointed to up-date or revamp manuals, they re-do everything entirely instead of improving and/or adding to the existing materials. As a result, each year, the public and business sector is forced to re-learn brand new sets of instructions and guides to perform totally new and different sets of exercises. Well government may have the time and resources to re-do every documentation over every year on taxpayers money, but businesses can't.

For example, when up-dating a book, the author does not re-write the whole work, he or she up-dates and adds current information. Up-dates are inserted within the body of the book where required and the current new information that took place since the last revision is added at the front of the book, along with a summary of the up-dates that have been inserted throughout the body of the book. This way, the reader who is already familiar with the book can quickly go through the newly revised work.

Likewise in a job description, the basic functions of it are the same even though some changes may take place from year to year. You don’t re-write the whole manual – you simply up-date it. The contextual part of all this is the recognition of the immediate surrounding of the job functions and the people performing these jobs. No matter who takes on the job or leaves it, the job possesses a basic, generic way of execution, according to the activities and requirements of the function requirements.

Of course, with the implementation of ISO 9000 standards of some years ago, this is somewhat easier to do now, because job writing processes are being foundationally laid down in such a way that any one taking up the job of up-dating documentation automatically follows the precepts of the previously written material.

But unfortunately most organizations do not have such standards and controls. I've seen plenty of instruction manuals that have been put together under some degree of professional business level only to find out they just didn't make sense. Oh, some of it is impressive to look at, it makes great reading on its own but try and marry it to the actual performing of a function, and it doesn't work.

Why? Because after it was written, nobody sat down at the job to follow the written procedures alongside the function. You follow every step, you do what the manual says, but the system or process you're trying to learn or make out to work just doesn't do what it's supposed to do -- a step is missing, an instruction was left out, a word was omitted at the beginning or somewhere along the process that sent the whole sequence on the wrong pathway. If you’ve bought a product to be assembled at home and followed the instruction, you know what I mean.

But my point at the beginning is that within government agencies or business organizations where there is no central documentation control, too many books and manuals and guides are being completely re-written instead of being merely up-dated by unsupervised trigger-happy individuals who have no concept of the predecessors who already penned the foundational basis to be worked on.

Multiplied by hundreds of hours of writing, this superfluous pool of documentation ads up to multi-million dollars annually – and that is not even counting the readers’ time. The bureaucracy of this all is the mechanical unimaginative way that has insisted on inflexible and blind routine and petty rules.

So how do we avoid this superfluous bureaucracy in an organization? By first becoming aware of its existence, by recognizing it in our own places of communication output and by hiring people who can set the controls to catch the flow of documentation that is lined up for up-dates and revisions./dmh

Article Copyright(c)Diane M. Hoffmann. You may print this article making sure to include the following bio without any changes.

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at

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