The Kaizen of Writing

I recently edited an article about Kaizen, the practice of continuous improvement. One of the anecdotes in the article was about a person who worked at Toyota. This person’s boss would not accept a document he had written because it was one line of text more than would fit on a single page. You see, at Toyota they have two sizes of documents: A3 and A4, which means letter size and 11 x 17 inches. All documents have to fit on a single page of either A3 or A4 paper. No need for a stapler at that company.

WOW! Imagine how many hours that saves in writing time, in reading time, and yes, in editing time. Think about how you might be able to condense your whole project status report, your proposal, your method, or your specification to a single piece of paper.

Just today a new customer came to my office asking for help in editing a 132-page report about petrophysics. If I were at Toyota, would I be able to pare that down to a solitary page? How? Surely only the most important, salient points would be included – basically an Executive Summary. Short words, short sentences, pictures that tell most of the story, just the beef, no baloney. The rest is superfluous. Try the Kaizen approach next time you have to write a document and see if short is really as sweet as they say it is.

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