How to Win Friends and Influence Documents

Part of my job for the past three weeks has been to produce a strategy paper for my team, outlining the scope and approach of what we intend to achieve over the next year and a half. This strategy then has to be presented to a steering group for approval. However, since the members of this group are really busy, and there are lots of things needing their approval at each meeting, the idea is that I to send it to them ahead of time, and ensure that they’re happy with it.

Or, in business-speak – I need to socialise the document.

I nearly gagged the first time I heard that phrase – first from revulsion, and then from laughter. The possibilities for comedy are endless.

Around a table with a Yorkie

Three Documents having a Friendly Chat over Chocolate

How do documents socialise? Where do they meet? After work on Friday down at the local pub, or do they prefer a quiet chat in the reading room at the library? Does size matter? Do 30-page documents look down their staples at 5-page documents as being unworthy of intellectual conversation?  Is there a social hierarchy, where Plans are lowly, Specifications are derided for being geeky, and Mission Statements are avoided like street-corner “End-Is-Nigh” prophets? Are there some documents that Contents pages warn you about – the dog-eared, the creased and the folded-back?

Does the personality of a document depend on its subject matter, or the personality of its author? Are some documents inherently introverted, and have to be pushed to socialise, and are there the party animals out there that just love to chat up anything with page numbers? My document is an actuarial one, which gives it a serious setback in trying to make its way into a society of legal frameworks and systems methodologies. In fact, I’m pretty certain that the old actuarial joke holds true:

What’s the difference between an extroverted actuarial document, and an introverted actuarial document?

The extroverted actuarial document will be looking at the other document’s footnotes!

And so, I thought about ways of helping my poor introverted document make itself known to others. I got it to set up a profile on Facebook for Documents, but it had trouble using FriendFinder. It also didn’t manage to make any document friends, apart from a dodgy 3-pager about drug use in Central Birmingham, that gave me the distinct impression it was looking for thin, high-quality paper that burns slowly when rolled and filled. Oh, and what I thought was a sweet little number discussing trends in annuitant mortality that looked to be just the biscuit, but on closer inspection was faking it, and was really a morbid docudrama on gangland killings looking for new subject matter.

And so my poor little treatise still has much to learn of socialising. If anyone reading this can suggest a good support group for lonely documents, I’d really appreciate it. A sort of Appendices Anonymous, or Documents Without Borders. And while an online group would probably be acceptable, I think I’d prefer to stick to real-life, in-the-paper groups. I wouldn’t want her style sheets to be corrupted…


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6 Responses to How to Win Friends and Influence Documents

  1. Jill says:

    Outstanding. My favorite so far, which is saying a lot.

  2. Brad Nixon says:

    “Documents Without Borders”. Truly, absolutely, and utterly funny.
    Gazing long and hard at the photo of documents socializing, I gather that they’re leveraging synergy in a synergistically leveraged environment.

  3. Dónal Welsh says:

    Well done Nick! This is terrific creative wit. Laughed my socks off.
    The stage is set for the world’s first stand-up Actuarian.

    If only the Bolsover Steam Enthusiasts’ Club, the Snettisham Sudoku Society, or the Runcorn Rubic Cube Assemblers’ Convention knew what they were in for!

    But would a standard-sized Liverpool document be judged too aggressive if, when asked its name, it shouted Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh Four!

    Will an Orwellian-driven shiver run through the world’s documents when Governments go on about a computerised paperless (gasp!) society? Will there be papyrogenocide allegations?

    We wait and see.

  4. Jolie says:

    very interesting topic , outstanding post.

  5. Pingback: Training in Training | Thoughts While Shaving

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