Standards Creep (was "Documentation plans, standards manuals, and more")

Subject: Standards Creep (was "Documentation plans, standards manuals, and more")
From: "McDonald, Guy A." <Guy -dot- A -dot- McDonald -at- usa -dot- conoco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 11:04:17 -0500

"As for tying people to their desks and beating them, as of recently, I'm
only writer. Hence, it would be mostly self-flagellation. ;)"

Jessica -

I can't speak for Andrew Plato - he does that well enough for himself ,-)
However, I do know one thing that is Anathema to most tech writers.

Flexible/Fluid standards.

There are companies in this business that flop & twitch on document
standards. They set up entire departments that focus on this issue, which in
my opinion can be good if you can afford it. Or, bad if you allow it to
usurp primary drivers such as product to market schedule.

Unfortunately, the human nature to fix something that isn't broke can give
birth an ugly beast. I know of 3 large companies that employ such a beast
that will continually justify its existence by belching out change after
change after change. Hence, standards creep appears.

If you guard against standards creep then you will not fall into a trap.
Otherwise you will find yourself trying to overcome unnecessary barriers to
produce high quality documentation in a compressed schedule environment. My
rule of thumb is an annual review of corporate documentation standards. A
shorter periodic standard review (IMO) is counterproductive to moral,
quality and efficiency.

My $.02 conclusion --- Strong management will put the clamps on over-zealous
standards/styles demigods. If they do not, then the entire writing effort
will ultimately bog down production by trying to keep up with ever-changing
"improvements" to documentation.

Guy A. McDonald
Information Development Manager
Technical Information Architects, Inc.
<mailto:gmcdonald -at- tiainfo -dot- com>
Direct 281.293.6422


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