If guidelines become tomes, gathering dust …

After my admiring post on Cisco’s extensive guidelines for patents (See my post of April 22, 2009: Cisco’s 70-page guidelines for patent prep.), Jim Dunning, who blogs at GeoTrupe, commented with a more cynical – probably realistic — spin.

“My only query is whether, given its length, such guidance would actually ever be referenced by its target audience or instead flicked through, possibly in a seminar, and then placed on a shelf/in a draw to gather dust.

This is a challenge for any measure such as this and one not easily overcome. I am reminded though of the “defense manual” a major corporate had put together for its various key players to reference in the event of a hostile takeover bid coming in.

The document was very impressive and no doubt cost a lot of money. Most I spoke too felt that page 1 might as well have read, “place file in bin and contact advisory team”! Simplistic I admit, and somewhat tongue in cheek, but you get my drift.”

Even assuming Dunning is right, I don’t think it damns efforts to codify processes and develop guidelines. Those efforts may lead to changes that would not otherwise have been recognized and dealt with. The risk of dusty tomes means they need to be useful, living, easily available and searchable and referred to by managers. In other words, skillful information architecture and nudges help change behavior.

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