RE: Looks like we'll have to agree...

Subject: RE: Looks like we'll have to agree...
From: "Lisa Wright" <liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 22:59:48 -0800

Susie,
Sounds like you've got some major stressors at work right now. You came
back from maternity leave to discover that your work was being done
badly by someone else, and no one else cared or even seemed to notice.
Now you have to play catch-up, and there's new work coming in as well. I
don't think you said when you came back from maternity leave, but it
sounds like you might still be feeling a little displaced after being
gone for so long?

Here are some highly practical suggestions for getting it under control.
(To actually get it *done* you will have to work your ass off.)

1. Existing projects: Write them all down with enough information to
help you remember current status and what's outstanding. Nothing
elaborate. Take the list everywhere you go. Work the list. Do not get
distracted by, well, distractions or other people's "urgent" needs.
Which leads to...

2. New projects: Any request you get, verbally or in e-mail, make the
person a. define it, b. prioritize/deadline it. If they have time to
tell you they need it, they have time to talk about it for 15 minutes.
If they send you an e-mail, go find the person and ask questions, in
person. DIG to find out what they want, who it's for, and why. Include
this on your project tracking sheet. New requests go on your project
list. Some of these projects really are urgent. Make sure everyone
involved knows that you are setting one thing aside to fill an immediate
need. Make the managers/requesters work out the priorities, don't do it
for them.

3. Identifying changes: This is going to be a pain for you. Everyone
else has moved on, and nobody is going to take the time to help you
figure out what changed while you were gone. They're not being mean;
it's a simple fact. Sit down with the software and figure out the
changes yourself. It sounds like you have a good handle on the product
as it was, so changes should be easier to spot. It may be
time-consuming, but it's definitely manageable over time.

4. Others have made great suggestions about getting involved in meetings
and distribution lists. Go ask the developers--"say, are you working on
the new whizbang routine? Really, it changed to a whirlibird instead?
Tell me more." "You know, I was playing in the code and noticed that
doodlebug is calling schmootzie now. When did that happen?" Be
interested.

5. Development projects: A heretical question for you--must you be on
the project plan? What is being lost if you aren't there, aside from
feeling that you're part of the project? Are there any dependencies?
Remember, it has to be important to the owner of the plan that you be
there. Obviously, if you've got help files to include in the code, then
that needs to be in the plan so they don't forget them when they
compile. But otherwise, if there's that much resistance, and it's not
causing any real problems, why bother? Just something to think about.

6. Managing your work: I use lots of internal "processes," but I don't
bother anyone else with them. If I have so many projects that I have to
track what I'm doing, I create a spreadsheet. But I don't burden other
folks with it (except another writer if we're overlapping, but I hardly
ever have one of those). The only form people see from me is a review
form. People don't want to be burdened with elaborate request forms.
What they do get lots of is content. Outlines. Passages to review.
Questions. Even your manager may not want to be bothered with processes,
aside from knowing what you and the other writer plan to do to get
yourselves out of the hole you're in.

Almost lastly, please, please don't "dumb" yourself down to please
insecure alpha-geek-wanna-bes who think they're god's gift to the
technical universe. If the developers are worried that you're making
them look bad, then they should be working harder, not trying to get you
to stop working so hard and well. Ideally, our co-workers should
challenge us to be better. I love working with smart people (okay,
smart, well-adjusted people!) because it keeps me on my toes. You are
not a "lowly" technical writer. You are a technical writer. You do
different stuff. Go work your ass off on the stuff you do, and if you
show them up in the process, well, who said blowing the curve isn't fun?
:-)

Lastly, take a deep breath, acknowledge that there's no way to get it
all done at once, then dig in.

Take care,

Lisa Wright


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References:
Looks like we'll have to agree...: From: Susie Pearson

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