RE: Plays well with others

Subject: RE: Plays well with others
From: david -dot- locke -at- amd -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 11:32:08 -0600

When a writer is hired and assigned as the only writer for a product, there
is no team work, and their is no team player. This is the way that most
captured writers are assigned. That writer is expected to manage the
documentation projects for that one product. And, they alone are responsible
for getting it done.

They were hired, because they were capable of self management. This
capability to self manage is then not respected after the writer is hired.
If you hire that, respect that. Expect that the writer will not report to
you unless there is an exception. And, they are only reporting that
exception, because they expect you to fix it. If you don't fix it, then you
will teach them not to report to you at all.

When a writer is hired to be responsible for one product, they are in fact
being hired to be an in-house contractor. The responsibilities are exactly
the same as if they had been hired as a contractor to start with. This leads
to the situation where a writer has x years of experience doing the same
thing over and over again. They really have one year of experience repeated
endlessly. It also leads to a situation where the captured writer does not
grow career wise.

In addition, we need to face up to the reality that some writers write and
then rewrite endlessly as the product changes, and other writers write once
the product is stable. And, by rewrite, I don't mean first draft, second
draft.... The writer in the second group has nothing to report in terms of
progress for quite a while. They can report being in the research phase, but
it will seem like they are not working. However, programmers are not graded
by how much code they produce, but rather on how much working functionality
they produce, and whether they produce it by the delivery date. If you grade
your writers the same way, you only have to ask yourself if they have done
these things in the past. If you threaten them, there is a good chance that
they won't repeat past successes, and you could get fired yourself. The
startups that I worked at always fired the managers and executives if a
delivery date was missed.

There is a way to organize a department, so that delivery dates are always
met. Start by using your senior people as project managers. Assign them the
role of being the interface for the various product teams. Let them write
the doc plan. Then, put your writers, illustrators, publication designers,
editors, instructional designers, etc. into a resource pools. Then, let the
project manager select their resources, and control resource loading.

The doc manager would then only have to manage conflicts over resources.
Status would be reported more accurately by the project managers, and
writers. And, the writers could grow into project managers, and project
managers could grow into doc managers. Then, x years of experience would
mean x years of escalating responsibility. We can break out of the model
that says you have to be a contractor to make money in this field. We can
quit being internal consultants.

In the poster's situation, he should leave his past performers alone. And,
going forward, he should hire people that are NOT self managers if he
expects to be a hands on manager. The manager has some responsibilities
towards his people, and he should be providing services to them, instead of
expecting them to service him. To manage is to enable. But, how many times
have we seen managers disable.



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