Four hints to work out if it is a bad document ...

For an industry that routinely generates large volumes of documentation, it is shocking to see just how bad many of them are. A lot of it is pseudo-intellectual garbage that is often written by ivory tower engineers.

From my narrow viewpoint, these are a few tips that should help you to recognize when a document is valid and worth reading, or if it is just another piece of corporate litter.

1. They dont reference, in whole or in part, any internationally accepted standards.

It's surprising how many policy or strategy documents have been written without referencing either SAE JA101 or the relevent IEC standards on intrumentation, or even the API 580 and 581 codes on RBI.

Ridiculous, isn't it? Do people really think they can or should recreate the wheel everytime? Does their management really think this is the less risky path to take?

2. They quote from recognized authors in the field without referencing their work. 

This is basic professionalism. Copyright theft is rife in our game. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen my stuff presented back to me without attribution. Documents that are cross-referenced show that it is more than the author's opinion.

3.  They confuse fact with opinion.

"Empowered employees," "You must do a criticality analysis," "RCM is resource-intensive." These are all examples of statements you read that have absolutely no substance at all. 

Ten anecdotes do not data make. The culture we have of trying to run gigantic enterprises by telling stories to each other, without any basis in real and provable fact, has to stop. It is dangerous.

4. They are filled with motherhood statements.

You know the type. All great intentions but no focus on the method of doing this, and no referencing of more detailed exmpalations. "Departments shall audit their processes every year," "All budgets will be zero-based," etcetera.

There's no method for how to do this, no auditable trail to see if it has been done, no scorecard to see where we are at today, and no evidence that anyone will ever/has ever done anything other than read this document.

It's not really acceptable for a management discipline charged with safeguarding the productivity, profitability and risk management of the world's machinery, is it? 

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