When you need to restructure?

Subject: When you need to restructure?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 11:02:13 -0400

Jane Carnall reports: <<I've just had a really productive meeting with a
couple of designers (internal customers for the documentation set) and have
come to the conclusion that the documentation set pretty much needs some
restructuring. Since the content also needs some considerable rewriting, I'm
going to just start fresh from brand-new templates, rather than doing a lot
of copying, cutting, and pasting.>>

Sometimes it's actually considerably faster to use the old docs solely as a
reference rather than copying and modifying old text, with all the perils
that entails (e.g., some of the old stuff getting left in the final
manuscript, even though it no longer applies to the current structure).
That's particularly true if the people who did the previous docs used
templates clumsily or not at all.

<<Disadvantages: (1) For a while, it's going look like I not only haven't
done anything, I've actually gone backwards.>>

That's not a disadvantage if you get buy-in from the people who will be
monitoring your progress, and can meet the deadlines that you agree upon.

<<(2) I won't be able to take advantage of all the long, densely informative
but unstructured sentences that my predecessor wrote (this isn't really a

If you're a moderately fast typist, this too may not be a problem.

<<can't think of any other disadvantages: well, except that my predecessor
is still working here and did put in a lot of work and I don't want to imply
that it was all worthless, because it wasn't>>

Then that's the way to sell your approach: "I really appreciate all the work
you put into the previous version; the current version has changed
enormously, but I can use everything you did as reference material and save
a lot of time in my research." Combine this with some people management
skills, and you're off to a good start: ask the predecessor to work with you
on the new template design and on explaining the travails endured during
creation of the previous version (so you don't encounter the same
problems--encountering new and different unforseen problems is so much more
enjoyable <g>). Make sure to accept the occasional compromise rather than
insisting on your own approach, and you'll earn a friendly colleague rather
than someone with wounded toes.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is
by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause
accidents."-- Nathaniel Borenstein


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