It’s never fun watching a technical documentation, training development, or other writing projects get off to a false start or just downright fail. It can be a real morale blow and expose the writer(s) and their team to criticism from stakeholders. However, failures do happen, and it is best to do what you can to recover from quickly.

Writing projects can fail or stall for a myriad of reasons including poor planning, course changes in the project plan, and other risks that may or not be accounted for in the overall project plan.

Here are five ways to get past a failed or stalled writing project:

  1. Swap out writers. The first question to ask is, did we use the right writer for the task? If you didn’t use a writer at all, then that is an entirely different story. If the first writer or writers couldn’t understand the material and cause, then it might be time to take them off the project and insert a writer who has experience writing on the subject matter. Remember, ignorance is never an asset for a technical writer.
  2. Reassess requirements and the overall plan. Documentation should have requirements and a plan just like other project elements. Whether it is an informal or formal plan that prompted the documentation effort and the writing project still fails it is then time to drop back and reassess the requirements and overall plan. This is another reason why the technical writer needs a seat at the table with the other project stakeholders to best represent the technical documentation element.
  3. Repurpose or shelve the content. One of the great things about technical content is that you can always repurpose it later. If a technical documentation or training project has failed, suffered a false start, or the overall project has been canceled then don’t delete the documents rather you should archive them and look for ways to use the content on other projects or if the project comes back from the dead. Repurposing may not sound like a recovery move, but it does help lay the groundwork for future documentation efforts.
  4. Use it as a catalyst for change. Technical documentation and training development projects don’t get the attention they deserve in some organizations, so a failure or string of failures mean it is time for a change in how the organization plans and develops their technical documentation and or training. However, making it a catalyst for change is going to require some political capital.
  5. Offer options to get past the stall. One of the least mentioned facets of technical writing and training development could see the angles on a project to get past real and image obstacles and drama that can sometimes ensue.

It can be easy to want to sweep a project failure or false start under the rug, but a good practice it to conduct a post mortem on the project to try to come up with solutions and better practices that your team can put into place, so the same mistakes don’t happen in the future.

How do you recover from a failed or stalled writing project?

Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

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