Three Basic Project Management Tips for Improved Writing Teams

Posted on May 15, 2014 by Sarah S

six sigma

Project management is often associated with corporate structures, but when you deal with writers for hire, some basic tips gleaned from methodologies such as Lean or Six Sigma save you time and money. Both methodologies seek to increase efficiencies and reduce errors in a process. When working with multiple writers through any platform or contract arrangement, increase the chances that content will be right the first time with these three tips.

Avoid Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks occur when a single step in the process is slower than the steps before it. For example, if you hire ten writers to generate product descriptions and only have one editor to review the work, a bottleneck is likely to occur at editing. Bottlenecks also occur due to technical solutions or processes employed by writing sites where you order content. Does the site itself require administrative review of a client’s first order or limit the amount of work writers can complete for each client? Before ordering content, understand your own needs, your in-house processing capability, the details of site workflow, and the ability of writer workforces to meet your demands.

Address the Root Cause

Errors in the product are indicative of a problem in the process, but how do you know what to address? A couple of grammar errors could be the result of a tired editor, but copy that doesn’t come near the mark regarding style or audience might mean you have the wrong writer or your instructions aren’t specific enough.

Fixing a problem requires understanding the root cause. One way to locate a root cause is asking questions of yourself or team in an exercise known as the 5 Whys. The why question gets more specific as you drill down to a root cause of the problem. A content-related 5 Whys session might look like this:

Why doesn’t the content meet your needs?

Because it doesn’t target our audience.

Why do you think it doesn’t target your audience?

Because our readers are professional attorneys, and the copy uses basic language and talks about basic ideas.

Why do you think the writer used basic language and ideas?

Because the writer isn’t an expert in the industry.

Why isn’t the writer an expert?

Because we didn’t specify that as a requirement when we hired writers.

The Why question session drilled down to a root cause for the problem, and provides a suggestion of where you might make a change. Another exercise that helps identify root causes is the Fishbone Diagram, and it can be completed as a group or individually.

Create Poka-Yoke Instructions

When dealing with a team of multiple writers, the root cause may be confusion or leeway in the instructions that you didn’t mean to impart. LEAN process management employs a device known as the Poka-yoke to mistake-proof manufacturing functions. Often a template, the Poka-yoke keeps each part the same despite various employees working the process.

You can Poka-yoke content instructions to increase the quality generated by a writing team. First, provide simple, concise details about what you want, including:

  • What keywords
  • Keyword density
  • Where keywords should be placed
  • Whether you want bullets, subheaders, or other formatting
  • Audience details
  • Level of information expected
  • Style of writing expected
  • Work count
  • Point of view expected

Review your instructions and ask yourself if you have any questions about what writers might provide. If you have questions, writers will too. Once you find an instruction template that works, stick with it on other projects.

A little project management goes a long way in increasing results and decreasing hassles related to your content generation processes.

Sarah S is a full-time freelance writer with a black belt certification in Six Sigma. She’s a whiz at root-cause analysis, but her husband sure wishes she could create a Poka-yoke for putting the car keys back on the hook each day.


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