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Subject:Re: Work harder not smarter From:Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Sun, 25 Nov 2001 21:15:01 -0800 (PST)
"Gwyneth Runnings" wrote...
> Planning is not "wasted" time. "Wasted" time is rewriting,
> re-editing, reformulating and maintaining massive documentation that
> barely anyone can use and pretending that you are doing your job
> because you produced a lot of pages.
Ummm....that IS your job. At least any tech writing job I've ever seen.
You're supposed to rewrite, reformulate, and maintain documents.
When did technical writing become this managerial job where all people do
all day is plan and nitpick?
If I had to break down a tech writers time into percentages it might look
2% Planning / arguing over fonts / learning tools
50% Learning technologies / interacting with SMEs
25% Head down, butt in chair, banging out text
20% Editing and tweaking
3% Administrative stuff
But if I listened to the STC rhetoric, I might think my time was more like
25% Writing doc plans, performing audience analysis,
applying information mapping theories
20% Arguing over fonts, styles, commas, and word etymology.
20% Learning new tools
25% Career development, networking, and mentoring
5% Attending STC conferences
5% Actual work.
Which leads us to this bizarre culture of technical writers who neither
are technical nor do much writing. All they apparently do is prepare to do
There is nothing wrong with a little planning, but the "plan to fail, fail
to plan" obsession has gone a little to far in this profession. Planning
is supposed to help you get organized so you can spend your time more
efficiently. Therefore, a small minority, like less than 5% of your time
should be devoted to planning.
> Our function is to provide usable
> information not just information. This cannot be done by "working
> harder" it can only be done by "working smarter." Working smarter is
> using facts to provide a framework for repeatable successes.
I know that is what they teach in Business 101, but its not reality.
Reality is hard work IS smart work. You cannot replace intelligence with
planning and procedure. It will never work.
Repeatable success comes from people devoting their energy to getting a
job done. Along the way they figure out ways to do it better the next
> If you
> don't make needs assessments or document user profiles for future
> reference, work that you do today will have to be repeated by someone
> else down the line.
I guarantee you that the person "down the line" will toss out all your
planning and do it their way. I cannot tell you how many times I have
watched organizations fritter thousands of hours and millions of dollars
into planning that promised them massive economies of scale only to throw
out the entire system when somebody new came along.
Again, I know it feels right. But it isn't. By definition, if you work
hard and put out quality documentation more than once - you have
"repeatable success." And you can do that without devoting a lot of time
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