TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
The ever-cynical Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
> Quality does not flow from structure. Order is not
> the same as completeness.
> Tim's arguments may be very convincing but he (an
> others) are hard-wiring
> concepts together that simply are not connected.
> Just having the right tools,
> the right templates, and the right documentation
> methodology is not a guarantee
> that you will produce anything of quality.
The whole reason that companies institute
methodologies is so that person A and person B are
doing things as identically as possible. They also
like to expedite efficiency.
I would agree that "quality" is not always guaranteed
by a slick process. But it makes me feel a whole lot
better than the chaos of simply moving from day to day
or minute to minute without a plan (not that I'm
opposed to chaos in general).
The department I'm contracting for was audited
recently. It was discovered that no one
*Knew how to process an invoice
*Knew how to an "acceptable" contracts
*Was keeping files on those contracts
*Contracts were being delayed because the information
*Work was being done and not documented or approved
(in many cases, the work was on properties the company
was leasing, and that lease expressly forbade such
actions without the lessor's permission).
*No one was ensuring that the work was even being
performed or that was acceptable or up to city, state,
or federal codes.
The ultimate result was that the company was losing
*The same invoice was paid multiple times.
*Equipment wasn't being maintained and would fail.
*We were being sued for breach of contract for failing
to pay invoices.
*We were being fined (the company is subject to OSHA,
FAA, DOT, and other Federal Agency regulations).
We HAD to develop procedures so we wouldn't waste
money and resources. I made it a point to examine the
best practices of our field employees and develop the
processes from that, rather than from some ideal that
our management had in mind. But I'm lucky, our upper
management worked out there and knew that imposing
ridiculous procedures on our employees wouldn't be
> No process, no initiative, and no internationally
> recognized documentation
> methodology can compensate for ignorance, laziness,
> or irresponsibility of the
> members of a team. It is foolish nonsense to think
> that you can impose
> structure on stupidity.
Completely true. But at least with P&P's, you have
solid grounds to get rid of those people.
Your view of business, however, implies that the
majority of employees are decidedly stupid or
stubbornly refuse to play by the rules.
In reality, there are a few trouble makers, but 80-90%
of the people out there will accept the policies IF
they don't add to their current workload or make them
jump through a bunch of hoops or cang be shown to
effectively increase productivity and efficiently. If
they feel that the "rule" is a burden, guess what:
they will rebel. Few people I've worked with have been
the lazy incompetants Andrew seems to have surrounding
him. Most people are content to do their jobs to the
best of their ability: asking them to do more than
that is the quickest way to earn their displeasure.
> One of the fundamental elements of morons is that
> they will defend their
> irresponsibility and sloppiness into the grave.
> Giving them a process just
> hands them new tools for hiding their incompetence.
> Processes and methodologies are like band-aids for
> sick organizations. Yes, a
> process may clear up some of the symptoms, but it
> will not cure the disease.
> The disease is people who don't like, believe, or
> care about what they do. They
> lack direction, they lack incentive, they lack a
> leader who knows what he/she
> is doing.
So we should throw out all processes simply because a
handful of people abuse them? Should everyone stop
driving because a few people abuse the priveledge? Or
stop eating because a few people abuse food?
> Planning merely
> procrastinates the inevitable.
So you never plan? Never set a deadline? By extension,
there is never any success...only failure. What a
bleak world view this is.
> How is it that thousands of people work on the space
> shuttle - and nobody
> thought to look at those o-rings.
>(A) Morons were in charge telling people it was no
> big deal,
> (B) morons were listening who didn't question this.
First of all, the morons you are referring to were not
telling people that it was no big deal. The engineers
repeatedly tried to explain that the primary O-rings
would fail when the temperature fell below a certain
point. Unfortunately, the kept making mention of
secondary systems. To those engineers, "primary" and
"secondary" meant one thing, while the terms meant
something else to the recipients of those warnings,
which were then interpreted as being reassurances.
There were no morons here, just a bunch of people
assuming things: just like Andrew does everyday - or I
do, or anyone on this list.
In fact, this example goes to show how a process could
probably have saved lives. Instead, because there
wasn't a structure in place for these people to
formally present their concerns, disastor occured.
The fact is
> The few that did understand the problem were in the
> minority and shoved into a
> corner. Once the morons take over, get out. You
> can't reason with them and you
> can't make them see reality.
Here's a nice circular argument: To improve the
company, get rid of the morons, but once the morons
take control, all non-morons should leave. Who's left
to get rid of the morons? Of course, I'd like to see a
definition of moron.
> Be a moron and don't question things. Play it safe
> and play by the rules.
When the processes have been proven to be effective,
there's no need to change without a serious review of
the new ideas. When I write P&P's, yes, I question
them - as do most people I know. But throwing out the
P&P simply because one person questions them isn't
The bottom line is that some processes are good, while
some are bad. Smart organizations keep the good and
cut the bad.