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Avoiding the Approval Death Spiral: Writing (Less Painfully) by Committee

by Lisa Schaertl  |  
September 16, 2003

If you're a communications manager or consultant for a company, you're going to be writing things that need the approval of the CEO before they go out.

And the VP of Marketing, of course. And the VP of Engineering better have a look too, because it's technical. And hey, this piece is about our new customer—everyone who worked on the sale and implementation better review it too.

And so you enter the Approval Death Spiral—revision after revision—trying to work in everyone's pet idea, arbitrate conflicting viewpoints, and remember why writing the piece seemed like a good idea at one time.

Writing by committee—unless the writer imposes strong discipline—ends with too many words and too little focus, and it is a colossal waste of time.

A simple tool called the “goals worksheet” can help you avoid the Approval Death Spiral, keep your sanity, and still give everyone a chance to review and approve what goes out. It goes back to one basic concept: making sure that goals and expectations are clear from the outset.

What Is it?

The goals worksheet is a one-page document that states why you're writing the piece, what it must say, and who will review it. It's especially effective with high-tech organizations that value a structured, methodical approach to everything.

Our goals worksheet has four sections: the positioning statement, reviewers, goals and key messages.

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Lisa Schaertl Lisa Schaertl is president of Tech Savvy Marketing (

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