From: "Sierra Godfrey" <kittenbreath -at- hotbot -dot- com>
And while we're at it, how often do you have the problem of just being about to send the manual off to the printer and then being told you can't because there are so many changs to be made suddenly by the SME? What do you do other than stress out?
If they can't finalize what they want to have in the document, it's not your fault. It's their lack of discipline, or perhaps some turf war of their own that you may not even know about. You should be able to report this to your supervisor, who _should_ stand up for you.
Let them clash if they must, but watch out for them trying to rush you. If a deadline is at 5:00, they'll be tinkering with the material at 4:56 and running to you with desperation in their eyes, thinking you will happily fix everything in the blink of an eye. Project deadlines tend to run late, and people look for bits of scheduled project time to steal. Documentation tends to be low on the list of priorities, so if some SME needs some more time in the crunch, it's your time that will be stolen, and you will be expected to perform your part of the task later and with less time.
Some companies have "freeze" dates beyond which the content cannot be changed. I've seen them back off of this with frost dates and thaw cycles - it all boils down to a lack of project planning discipline. It resembles the familiar quote, "A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
If some SME is dissatisfied with the literature you've produced, on the eve of the deadline, you should be able to show a history of attempts to get them to review and approve the material in a timely manner. Last year I had an assignment to re-write a major manual, and the principal SME was far "too busy" to ever review any of the material or dial into any of the meetings with her subordinates and partners in other departments. When the project was coming to a close, she finally read the draft, and in a rage declared it was completely useless. Her failure to participate was played off as the incompotence of myself and the lower-level SMEs who worked with me. When I left that place there were several entire departments not on speaking terms with each other.
When everyone starts pointing fingers of blame, the visiting contractor makes a convenient target. You can be made into the scapegoat; that is, loaded with the sins of the community and cast out. And that may not always be a bad thing. You get an opportunity to leave those incompetents behind you and go on to a more professional outfit.
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