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Measurement is viable and desirable, but you have to know exactly what
you're measuring and why. But, I have yet to see anything that proves
productivity = quality on a one-for-one basis using page counts, character
counts and the like. Quantity and Quality are not synonymous, and if you
think otherwise take a look at the majority of documentation produced by
supposed tech writers, who are in fact little more than data entry clerks.
Those of us who want to produce quality have to find other measurements.
God help the company that tries to measure by per-character productivity for
a technical writer who designs UI, captures, crops and touches up graphics,
edits style manuals, participates in design meetings, coaches staff on
writing, editing and using anything in MS Office, creates database ERDs and
at least a half-dozen other tasks I've forgotten at the moment. Standing
over me with a stopwatch and a clipboard is definitely NOT the approach to
use if you want me to be more productive. I'd look unproductive by such a
measure, but fortunately management here chooses to view productivity in
other non-paint-by-numbers approaches. Do they think I'm productive--yep,
I've met all the deadlines set for my projects, which is a far better
measure of productivity than how many pages I can stuff in a manual.
Geoff's approach makes infinitely more sense. Figure out what you have to
measure and why. Per character productivity measures might make sense in
some arenas. However, a cookie-cutter process simply doesn't work in the
From: rebecca rachmany [mailto:rebecca -at- COMMERCEMIND -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2000 3:21 AM
Subject: RE: Productivity Metrics
I know I am going to get flamed for this one, but...
The debate over productivity metrics reeks of an intractable reluctance to
admit that such a thing might be viable. For those of you who contract, you
*must* have some kind of measurement in place, unless you always charge by
the hour. Most technical writing companies I know of have per-page or
per-character rates as well as hourly rates. The whole concept that you
can't measure technical writing productivity seems to be some kind of excuse
for getting out of measuring ourselves. It's much nicer to go to management
and say "sorry, can't measure" than to actually analyze what you are doing.
I have found measuring my own productivity on a per-character basis to be
incredibly enlightening, not to mention that it increases my productivity.
Those of you who have studied productivity know that just measuring
something will make it go faster. I've heard of cases where factory output
was increased just by hiring a guy to walk around with a stopwatch, standing
next to workstations and looking at the watch (probably just an urban
legend, but there is wisdom in the parable). This is basic, basic
management. We love to hate management, but the truth is that these things
are legitimate and they DO work. Even if management doesn't measure you, if
you are responsible about your work, you should be measuring yourself.