4.5. On writing well

Even for those among us who naturally communicate well, visions and leadership documents bring with them the potential for great pretension. Suddenly there's an opportunity to show to the entire organization how grand our thinking is—the ego temptation is hard to resist. But pretentious writing defeats its own purpose; instead of communicating ideas, it obscures them.

4.5.1. It's hard to be simple

The most common mistake in writing visions is equating complexity of thought with complexity of presentation. Contrary to what many people think, it takes significantly more work to express sophisticated ideas in a simple manner than otherwise (writing code and writing essays share this relationship). Ten pages of summaries, disclaimers, charts, and diagrams can easily obfuscate the central ideas of a vision. Their inclusion might only prove the insecurities and lack of concision on the part of the author (read any academic or philosophical journal for bountiful examples of this). Sadly, this behavior is easy to copy. It tends to start at the top of organizations and bleed down, causing near-fatal levels of communication bloat and overhead. In some companies, it's hard to be sure the documents are in English.

For this reason, the vision document establishes more than just the direction of the project. It establishes the tone and communication quality people should expect from each other while working on the project. It's a chance for team leaders to demonstrate ...

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