RE: Why'd that take so long?

Subject: RE: Why'd that take so long?
From: "Lisa Wright" <liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2002 19:16:58 -0700

Well, it still sounds to me like "this is how long it is going to take,
deal with it," is really the only answer. You can tell them that you'll
work harder/faster/better and try new things, but you probably can't
make up a lack of 4 additional writers. You say time, tools, and
resources are constants. I assume they want to maintain quality? That
means that quantity or form or both has to give. I realize this is not
terribly helpful, but really, what do they want? If reality has not hit
everyone smack in the butt by now then they are simply hopeless. You can
only do Y amount with X resource. They have agreed that there is Z work,
but they only have X resource. The gap between Y and Z is something they
have to find a way to deal with. The reality that many companies are
dealing with is that certain work simply isn't getting done. They can't
hire the people. That's it. Your PMs simply must accept that something
has to give. It's a basic equation, one with which a product manager
should be intimately familiar.

(Qualifier: I have been in this situation and know whereof I speak.
There is only so much you can do, no matter how productive you are.)

Phrases and analogies your boss could employ:

"Can't get blood from a stone"

The current drought in Colorado and the west. "Sorry folks, that's all
the water there is. Yes, your tropical landscaping is going to die. Deal
with it."

(A favorite from a former developer co-worker) "Why yes, let me pull
another monkey out ..." (you get the idea).

"Why yes, we could get you the _outline_ for that 800 page manual by

And if he's not doing it, your boss should be shielding you from this as
much as possible so that you can get your work done. It's his job to
fight resource issues. It's yours to write.

Sorry for the feisty tone--it really gets me worked up when you lay
things out in simple terms, when everyone agrees to the facts, and then
they turn around and act as if the facts simply don't matter.


-----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of Martin R. Soderstrom
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2002 10:57 AM
Subject: Re: Why'd that take so long?

Wow. First off, thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond. It's
really appreciated.

>From a common thread running through several of the responses, let me
just clarify that this is not just a formatting problem. I chose that
specific example as it was the most recent and biggest occurrence of
this issue. Content is also an issue. Probably moreso.

Another common reaction seems to be to just "justify" the work. (i.e.
this is how long it will take, deal with it). That's not an option.
The people who've agreed that this is a multi-person job are the product
managers and my direct manager (as well as others), but that's neither
here nor there. We had layoffs about six months ago and the bottom line
is, there won't be anymore people. No matter how slick a presentation
is proffered.

What I really need (and I guess in my rushed post I wasn't particularly
clear about this) is how to explain to them why they can't have what
they're asking for. Think of the time, resource and tool parameters as
constants. Changing them would sure make things easier, but it ain't
going to happen. No way. No how.

I should also mention that my direct manager has already stepped up for
me by explaining the time involved is similar to the time involved when
development is asked for a "simple" change or addition and it ends up
taking 6 months. He's on my side and is only looking for this info to
appease the PM's so I can do my job unharrassed.

One thing that has been mentioned in a few posts which has piqued my
interest is the idea of a "module" approach to writing. Does anyone
have any articles/whitepapers/resources on that approach? I'm mostly
interested in source storage and how best to have a collection of
modules assembled into a book so it flows like a book.

Cheers and thanks again,

-- Martin

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