RE: Time keeping

Subject: RE: Time keeping
From: "Dick Margulis" <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 100 16:47:35 -0500

Lisa Higgins wrote:

(And no, I really don't think it's appropriate for anyone but MAYBE the most junior level writer. Anyone with any experience has probably figured out the most effective way to work, and I can't imagine what they'd want to do with this information except dictate some oppressive, inefficient, soul-sucking working model. Or maybe it's a contest to see who goes to the most meetings.)

And Dick writes (from his Y2K-crippled Web mail interface, so don't yell at me about the date on this post, please):

I understand where Lisa is coming from; and in an oppressively mismanaged environment, I would no doubt draw the same conclusion. But I think generally the real purpose of timekeeping in our kind of working situation is different from what Lisa's criticism assumes.

Put yourself in the position of a manager who knows three new products are going to need user manuals in the next six months. One product has four buttons on it and can perform seven functions. One has eight buttons on it and can perform thirty functions. One has 16 buttons and a full keyboard attached to it and can perform 150 functions. How long should she estimate the documentation cycle will take on each product? How many people should she plan on assigning?

She can take a wild guess, or she can base her estimate on how long it took to do the documentation for similar-sized products in the past.

So yes, no one cares that you spent five minutes showing a secretary from the Marketing department how to change the toner cartridge or that you came back from lunch five minutes late or that you were daydreaming most of the day Thursday. What they care about is that you spent two days this week on project X and three days on project Y. Then, when projects X and Y are done, by adding up the time you spent on it over the last few weeks and the time that Janet spent on it, your manager can come up with a rough estimate that takes into account all the false starts, all the wasted time, all the time spent correcting someone else's semi-competent work.

In other words, time keeping is supposed to answer the question, "How long did it take," not the question, "Who worked faster?"

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