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Toward a Critical Alignment with Efficiency Philosophies

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Purpose: Research has indicated technical and professional communicators (TPCs) continue to struggle with establishing value in the workplace. Studies advocate for more effective communication with management, but scholarship has yet to adequately address the relationship between establishing and explaining value and management philosophy. This article takes up the two issues of workplace value and "speaking the language of business" as they relate to management efficiency philosophy, specifically Lean and Six Sigma. I argue that management philosophy, particularly efficiency philosophies, is an integral, yet often overlooked, aspect of organizational context that affects both organizational structures and cultures.

Method: I share the results of an ethnographic study of a series of trainings that were part of a Lean initiative. I buttress these observations with two documents, one internal and one customer-facing, from Lean Six Sigma initiatives.

Results: The trainings illustrate the work of creating an organizational culture and the importance of communication in developing a sustainable Lean culture. The two documents are examples of how processes and workflow (e.g., organizational structures) are written in efficiency environments.

Conclusion: Practitioners and researchers should see efficiency management philosophies as important components of organizational contexts not to be glossed over. Communication is acknowledged as important to maintaining culture, but TPC knowledge and expertise are not necessarily recognized. The two documents show opportunities in these kinds of cultures to make work visible and establish value.
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Keywords: EFFICIENCY; LEAN; MANAGEMENT PRACTICES; ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE; TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION VALUE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2017

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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