Re. Benefits of a publications manager?

Subject: Re. Benefits of a publications manager?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2000 09:05:13 -0500

Stina Lane-Cummings is <<...trying to convince some people here that we need
a full-fledged publication... manager. This is hard, because there aren't
any problems right now.>>

When there aren't problems that must be solved, you need to instead identify
opportunities that aren't currently being exploited because nobody has the
time to think (and act) strategically. If these are opportunities your
management sees a benefit from, and the benefits outweigh the costs, you
could make a strong case for adding the position. Just don't sell it as
"there isn't a career ladder and people don't get to work on fun projects";
some companies may indeed think this is a significant problem in terms of
employee satisfaction, but most will see it as "pay me more for doing the
same thing" request, no matter how nicely you ask. If the projects are
really fun, do what I've always done: take them on anyway, with management
approval, and earn serious Brownie points. If the project succeeds and
starts generating both benefits for the company and more work, you'll have a
much stronger argument for staffing a new position.

One possibility that depends strongly on the size of your company and its
corporate culture is the role of "communications coordinator"; in addition
to handling the current techwhirling work, the person filling this role
would oversee communications training for the rest of the staff, internal
communications (e.g., all memos, staff policies and procedures, internal
training), external communications (e.g., all PowerPoint presentations to
clients, Web stuff, marketing), and anything else that involves an exchange
of words within the company or outside the company. That's an important and
challenging job, and if nobody's doing it now, it represents a very viable
career path. (If you eventually go that route, drop me a line; I have a
colleague who does this kind of corporate communications consulting work.)

<<This is because the writers are wonderfully self-managing and are being
supervised by someone who leaves us
alone unless we ask for help.>>

That strikes me as just about the perfect setup, particularly given that
it's the way I'm working right now and I'd hate to see it change. So why
would you want to take the risk of creating a position that might be staffed
externally rather than from within the existing writers? I've had a
disastrous experience in a similar situation (ask me about the manager who
opened all my mail for me and decided whether I really needed to see it),
and it left me somewhat gun-shy.

<<in my opinion, it will be a problem if we add one more person or if anyone
decides to leave.>>

If that's the case, then you should explain the problem to your supervisor
and propose a contingency plan. Does the current supervisor believe that
adding another employee would represent an unbearable supervisory burden? If
not, then that's not an issue you can fight and win. If someone leaves, do
you have a list of contractors who could step in and take up the load while
you look for someone full time? If not, then it might be worth building such
a list.

<<1. How is a publications manager different from any other manager? 2. What
are the benefits of having a publications manager?>>

1. There's no functional difference, though the nature of the specific tasks
the manager must manage certainly differs. 2. The benefits will depend
entirely on your current situation, but in theory, the following may be
benefits: running interference for you with managers of other groups (is
that a problem now?), doing a better job of advocating on your behalf (are
you satisfied with your budget, time requirements, and human resources?)
than a supervisor who "only steps in when you need help", strategic planning
(what opportunities have you missed?), resolving interpersonal conflicts you
can't resolve by yourselves (are there any?). On the whole, these sound an
awful lot like what your current supervisor is already doing well, and if
that's not the case, then you need to actively keep that supervisor informed
so they can take on the appropriate role for you. Which brings me around
full circle to my original suggestion: if you can demonstrate tasks that
aren't getting done and opportunities that are being missed, then you can
make a strong sales pitch for the new position. If not, then relax, and
enjoy (and take measures to protect) the current situation.

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens

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