Re: Theory vs. Practice (was: What's a TW etc...)

Subject: Re: Theory vs. Practice (was: What's a TW etc...)
From: MichaelHuggins -at- aol -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 10:19:12 EST

Bruce Byfield wrote:

<<<It seems to me that, in the long term, working without a reasonable
understanding of the subject means accepting mediocrity and dependency. I
can't work that way for very long without being frustrated and condemning
myself as a cheat. Nor can I understand why so many writers are
apparently content to coast along in this half-speed way. Even if their
identity isn't wholly bound up with being writer, I can't help wondering
why they aren't more worried about giving honest value...For me, it's not
just a matter of collecting a pay cheque. It's a matter of
self-respect...>>>

No doubt there are people like that in the writing field as well as in every other field, but I'm not sure what the comments above have to do with the recent thread. No one has claimed that anyone should attempt to write "without a reasonable understanding" of their subject, nor did anyone advocate "coasting." As I pointed out before, half the posts here seem to consist of so-called rebuttals to claims that were never made to begin with.

As to "honest value," as Charles Vermette pointed out, that is largely determined by the person signing the check. That person may or may not be capable of judging what level of quality best serves his or her own interest. One may be committed to doing the best work and still find it impossible to have that work accepted or adopted because of a misconception on the user's part.

I was hired once by a company that was about to embark on a study according to IBM's BSP/SA (Business Systems Planning for Strategic Advantage) method. My manager, a long-time IT executive, could not understand that the "objects" requested by the study were not the same as files. I knew little or nothing about BSP/SA or objects but realized at once that he had misunderstood. He simply refused to believe it, and I finally had to call the SME at IBM to support my point of view.

I proceeded to interview about 40 people, identified and described several dozen processes, and wrote a 130-page analysis. This same manager, apparently miffed, obstructed me every step of the way, even to the extent of calling potential interviewees and telling them not to respond to my requests for appointments. Meanwhile, he demanded to know how soon the report would be done.

Finally, a few days before the report was to be submitted to the company's executive council, he showed up with a 3-page addendum and insisted that it be included. His material didn't really make much sense and didn't fit in with the rest of the report, but he insisted that it be included, so I tacked it on as an appendix.

The report went to the executive committee. In the long-run, it became the basis for a great deal of company reengineering and growth.

A few days after it had first been read by the executive committee, the COO appeared in my cubicle. "Michael," he said, smiling, "I just want you to know that that report of yours was a home run...*especially that last three pages*...that was really the icing on the cake..."

Michael Huggins


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