Documents as conversation pieces
by Tom Carroll
Many times people are unable to sustain a dialog without some concrete representation to reference. In many organizations critical decisions, direction, assumptions and goals go under communicated. A document creates an opportunity to hold critical information but importantly it creates a relationship between the interested parties. The parties may have little opportunity to communicate and without the formality of a document the dialog never reaches critical mass or never occurs.
For example a report card really is a conversation piece to be used by the parent, teacher and student/child. In the end the value of dialog generated by the report card will eclipse the document itself.
The importance of the document is eclipsed by the dialog that is triggered and focused by the existence of the document. At some level the document is simply a conversation piece used to focus the exchange and create a reason for meaningful discussion. Once the conversations are complete and a meaningful result is achieved the document becomes a reference to the dialog that can be used to remind all parties of the exchange and commitments.
I know this is not some formal methodology where the documents are the critical and substantive. Pragmatically the value of the document will rarely exceed the value of the collaborative dialog that surrounds its creation, socialization, and acceptance. In the end the document is just a piece of corporate art that inspires passions, opinions and is left as a memory of it all.