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It sounded to me as I read Bob's original post that it wasn't so much the
idea of doing timesheets, it was the idea of tracking--to whatever time
increments required--the time you spend reading, vs. writing on this
document and that document, as though the director could figure to the last
minute how long it ought to take to do a particular "tech writing" task. It
looked less than "tracking project x Vs project y" than it did "how can I
measure the time it takes to proofread a document". OTOH, in my team I
know that if I have a particular function, and I'm writing the help for that
function, that I will need to do graphics, QA, write text, edit, send it out
for review, etc. For purposes of project management, I provided general
tasks to the project manager: document creation (incorporating subtasks of
outlining, testing the system, shooting and editing graphics, writing text),
review and revision, and production. They DON'T want any more detail than
that for their estimates. I use more detail for my own time management.
I report, in 1/4 hour increments, by project, the meetings, and the type of
documentation I was working on. If the meeting actually went 1 hour and 10
minutes, I round up, and then round down another task to compensate. Nobody
has questioned it so far, and my manager prefers to trust us. I do not
report that I spent 17 minutes and 42 seconds adjusting this graphic, or
that I spent 2 1/2 minutes applying a new style sheet to a 150 page
document, or that I spent three hours resending email to that reviewer who
won't respond. Or that I spent 20 minutes reading techwhirler emails.
How useful is that if you have more than one person on the writing team?
Some read faster, some type faster, some fly through work with a mouse. Some
weeks you just have way too many meetings to accomplish anything worthwhile.
Does the level of detail they're requiring of Bob and his teammates really
tell you anything useful about the overall productivity of the department,
or whether they'll meet their deadlines? I doubt it. In tracking and
preventing slippage in deadlines, how much help is it going to be to know
1/2 the staff spent an hour reading specs before they started writing, while
the other half spent 20 minutes? In managing a team and/or a project,
common sense should prevail over the minutia of tracking every task by the
minute. Apparently metrics can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands.
From: Dick Margulis [mailto:margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net]
Subject: RE: Time keeping
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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