How to review a business document: 6 Power Tips

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Do you have to review business documents in your job, but not sure how to do it?

You could have been asked to review documents about changes, product-launches, approvals, orders, requests, etc. – there are countless varieties serving countless purposes: however there is a way to approach a document review that is common to all of them.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Establish the purpose of the document: before you begin reading the document, check that you’re absolutely sure what the objectives of the document are. If you’re not sure, then it’s better to find out now before you potentially waste time. Business documents are normally an ‘artefact’ of a process. I.e. it is part of a process where the information gathered in the document is intended to enable a business activity, or to manage ‘governance’, i.e. to record what has happened and/or what will happen and to ensure that quality and rigor is assured.
  2. Establish how the document was produced, and who produced it – is the document a team-effort or by an individual? Is the document system-generated, or written/typed by people?
  3. Establish what the purpose of your review is, and what will happen to the document after you have reviewed it:
    1. Be clear on what must happen to the document if you identify readability/typos within the document – should you pick up the phone? Send comments in an email? Add embedded comments into the document?
    2. Be clear on what must happen if your conclusion is that the document doesn’t meet its objectives – is there are formal feedback mechanism or can you simply share your reason why?
    3. Be clear on what must happen to the document if your conclusion is that the document meets its objectives – how do you communicate your acceptance?
  4. Check that jargon is appropriate: often business documents are jam-packed with esoteric words that may be meaningless to you at first. So check the meaning! You can’t assume that just because jargon is used that it is being used correctly. This isn’t easy when you’ve entered a new work environment – words can be used within your team that haven’t heard before so you might think that you haven’t ‘joined the club’ yet – but don’t accept that just because a colleague uses them that they’re crystal clear on their meaning. After all, your colleague was once a newbie and they might not have asked for its definition but went along with the banter anyway! I work with Professional Services organizations – industries full of insider terms that take a lot of learning
  5. Inspect the document for what is not there, as well as what you’re reading: Just focusing on the words in front of you could mean you’re not seeing the gaps. I’ve been caught out on this many times before. Again, think of the purpose of the document. Does the document contain everything it needs to fulfil its purpose?
  6. Continually ask yourself: does what I am reading meet the document’s objectives?

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