Re: Process Improvement

Subject: Re: Process Improvement
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 10:58:52 -0800 (PST)

You don't need to define any processes.

The overwhelmingly most important task is for your "young department" to start
generating quality documentation and focusing on getting the content rock
solid. A set of styles and common usage should naturally begin to emerge after
6 to 12 months of documentation generation. Eventually, one writer should
spend about a day a year from now jotting down all those common usages into a
Word doc. The Word doc is put on a public server for other writers to add and
enhance as needed. There should be no controls, no rules. Just a common point
for people to capture what they have done and constructions that work for them.

When new designs come up, you discuss them casually and make it happen. Only
when work is slow do you slap it into the guide. The best style guides are
like running diaries. They capture ideas and designs as you go. Trying to
reason everything out in advance might feel like the "proper" and
"professional" thing to do, but it is likely a gargantuan waste of time and a
distraction from what you should be doing - writing documents.

If you want your department to be recognized as the "official owners" of styles
and designs, then get out there and show your company that you can produce top
quality material without a lot of fussing and one-off work. A cool style is
not going to impress anybody if the content of the documents is wrong. Put
your energies where they belong and let the styles develop naturally over time.

And Style Committees ... oh God, this has to be one of the most pointless
creations in all of technical documentation. Five writers arguing over which
fonts to use and what the kerning should be. Pick a style and USE IT. I
honestly believe Style Committees should be outlawed and punishable by death
for forming one. They are a waste of time and energy. They just give people
who don't want to do any real work an opportunity to sit around an act like
mighty important big shots explaining why Helvetica is more appropriate than
Dom Casual...or whatever. If you're company cannot just pick a style and run
with it, you have considerably larger problems than not having good styles.
Senseless bureaucracy for the sake of "fairness" is a waste of time, energy,
and resources. This stuff is simply not that important. Get the content right
and argue about fonts later.

Good luck.

Andrew Plato

"Carmen Gore" wrote...

> The Information Products (Documentation) Department at my current company
> is in the midst of documenting our current Information Products Development
> processes and coming up with new processes where needed. We are a young
> department and so many processes still need defining--one of them being how,
> in the future, we will maintain/update our Information Products Style Guide.
> Does anyone out there currently have a standard methodology or process for
> dealing with changes to or request for changes to your Doc Group's Style
> Guide? Such as a Style Committee or Style Review Board? If so, I'd like to
> hear about it and how this process was implemented. I am looking for a
> process that is fair to everyone and recognizes the entire Doc team as
> owners of the Style Guide. Thanks.

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