RE: Soliciting opinions - What would you do - LONG

Subject: RE: Soliciting opinions - What would you do - LONG
From: "John Locke" <mail -at- freelock -dot- com>
To: "Teresa Scheuerman" <t_scheuerman -at- hotmail -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2000 20:55:59 -0800


Here's a few thoughts to deal with a) and d) from below: how to define your
role the way it out to be, and not offend anyone.

Sounds to me that the key to your dilemma is that the "trainers" are so

Can you "volunteer" your services to one of them directly? Perhaps approach
one of them with your irrefutable logic:
"A: You have so much on your plate developing your training programs.
Perhaps I can help you out with the writing part of what you need done."
"B: Well, you know, we could probably save a little time if we sat down and
talked about it, I took notes, and then wrote them up in Frame. You don't
want to learn Frame, and it's a (small) wasted effort for me to convert
them." (You said they think you don't know how to write training material,
but you can pretend to not quite 'get' that point. Don't accept anyone
telling you you can't do something!)

and the clincher...

"C: If you focus on an outline and what needs to go into the document, and I
focus on fleshing it out (with a little help from you, of course!), it will
save us both some time, and make better use of my skills."

You say you have a great manager. What's her style? If she's very attentive,
hands on, I would talk with her directly--tell her you feel you could
contribute much more if you were given real writing work, rather than
glorified copy-editing. Demonstrate your understanding of the product, and
the reasons why writing is best left to writers (without necessarily
pointing out anybody's poor writing skills--though there are certain
situations where bluntness is called for).

If she's more hands-off, you can probably just take on a project, start
asking technical questions to the trainer, and work up an outline. Do it
first (before the trainer has a chance to do it), and send it to the
trainer/your manager "just as a suggestion..." I've worked on several
relatively unorganized projects where doing some work was all it took to get
a meaty project. As soon as you do something, the trainers/managers will
probably start dumping more of the responsibility on you, with relief.

Act like a professional writer. Take it on yourself to make your manager and
the trainers look good, and they'll soon be relying on you for much more
than editing. You generally don't need to criticize anyone... focus on what
you can add to the project. If they don't value your skills, I would sit
down with your manager, tell her "Hey, you're paying for my writing skills,
but all I'm doing is copyediting. You're wasting your money on my talents
here. I'm happy to keep copyediting, if that's what you really want me to
do, but you're not getting your money's worth."

As for b) from below, on countering the argument that you don't have a
teaching background, rephrase your obvious counter slightly: "but I do have
a writing background, and this is writing, isn't it?" Don't tell them what
qualifications they don't have. But don't accept their implied assessment
that you're not up for the job. (Lots of double-negatives in there, huh?)

Can't answer c).

Hope something in here helps.

John Locke

Teresa Scheuerman wrote:

> I had created a FrameMaker template and
> the trainers
> wrote the materials in Word. Only the writers have FrameMaker. As
> writers,
> our tasks over the next several months were:
> a) import documents into FrameMaker
> b) format documents so they work in the template
> c) import screen shots (and recapture the poor quality captures, of which
> there were numerous)
> d) edit the less than stellar writing of the trainers.
> We thought this was the end. The understanding was that the
> trainers have to
> do the writing to save time (i.e. there is a time crunch so it's
> easier for
> them to write rather than us getting the info from them...oh and they're
> trainers and we don't have the background to write educational materials).
> We are now converting the user guides from Word to Frame (to save future
> headaches, etc.). This will be complete by the end of March.
> So you see that it looks like our task will again be that of
> glorified copy
> editor and desktop publisher.

> After this long-winded introduction, I ask you - how would you
> approach this
> situation so as to:
> a) define your role the way it ought to be (i.e. actually writing
> material,
> not editing poor writing)
> b) counter the argument of "you don't have a teaching background" (the
> obvious counter being "you don't have a writing background")
> c) shift yourself out of "education" and more generally into
> "documentation"
> or "publications" (perhaps within R&D).
> d) not offend anyone (Our manager is really very good but we just
> think she
> doesn't understand what we (can) do and so can't support us. Plus she is
> going on maternity leave in the end of April and do not yet know
> who we will
> report to. It is possible one of the trainers will become interim
> "manager".
> You can understand the implications of this, I'm sure).
> I appreciate any and all opinions/suggestions/advice.

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