Re: what is process

Subject: Re: what is process
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 09:32:51 -0800 (PST)

Seeing as how I am usually at the core of these debates, I suppose I
should step out and define my terms.

> 1: What is your definition of process?

The root meaning of a process is a series of actions, changes, or
functions bringing about a result. In the context of technical
documentation process has many implementations, but they fall into two

- Process documentation: documents that describe, define or justify a

- Documentation processes: methods, procedures, and processes to produce

In general, when I talk about process, I am referring to documentation
processes - the methods people design to produce their documentation. What
is inside the document is not the issue, but the manner of production.

We could also go on to define two subcategories of process:

- Personal process: this is your own personal work preferences. Like
keeping a notebook on your desk or dutifully organizing your edits into a

- Work process: processes that are developed and then "applied" to other
people. Those people are then required to follow the process.

> 2: What is process supposed to accomplish?

A result. The idea is that a process will reliably produce the same
results. If you establish an assembly line (essentially a collection of
processes) that assembly line should consistently and efficiently produce
a product.

My beef with processes is the highly intellectual and chaotic portion of
documentation work that involves learning, understanding, and digesting
the content that must go into a document. This is the most important part
of any documentation project and simply does not lend itself to being

What other people argue for is the infrastructure that surrounds content.
The process of putting text on to the page. In my opinion, this represents
a significantly small portion of a project and therefore demands a
significantly lower priority. However, many people are unable to do any
work without some structure that can give them security.

The other problem is people focusing on the processes to produce
documentation and not the actual documentation. Its kind of like an
assembly line supervisor who obsesses over workers performing their tasks,
but pays no attention to the fact that they are producing an inferior
product. The supervisor is watching the process, and not the output. Its
damn near impossible to watch both simultaneously.

Processes are a natural part of any working environment. The question is
how pervasive and restrictive are those processes. Generally, the more
intelligent and skilled a person is, the less they need to rely on "work
processes" and more on "personal processes." I think a lot of people on
TECHWR-L confuse personal processes with work processes.

Hope that helps.

Andrew Plato

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