Re: Average Hours Worked ( long )

Subject: Re: Average Hours Worked ( long )
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 07:15:19 -0400

Ruth Charles wrote(in part):

Then there is the question of whether we are using a factory production model (tangible goods) for our tech writing or producing an 'intangible'. (I'm borrowing terms from Dick's posting here).

Okay, I'll take that as an invitation to reply to this aspect of Ruth's long and interesting post.

Well, I'd say we are producing a tangible product, and certainly in some places I've worked it felt like a factory production line - at one place we had metrics (and anyone who's is still working there will twitch at the mention of these ) which dictated how long it 'should' take you to write a chapter, topic, take a set of screenshots - you name it there was a metric for it. We were given 'units of work' and a tight deadlines, many things had a metric of 'zero time allocated' - mainly the admin paperwork that can tie you up for half a day or more. You stayed as late as it took to hit these production targets. That's a factory model.

Sounds highly dysfunctional to me, as I suspect it does to you. My point, I reiterate, was not that people _don't_ treat tech writing like factory work but that they _shouldn't._ The company measured things it could measure because they were there to be measured, not because they had anything to do with the economic value of your output. Did your employer's customers pay more for a product that had a manual with 200 topics than it would have for a product that had a manual with 100 topics? I hardly think that was something the customer considered. Would they have been willing to pay more for a product with documentation that successfully transferred knowledge about the use of the product to the people who had to use it than they would have for a poorly documented product? I should hope so. Does that have anything at all to do with the things that were being measured? I doubt it.

In any case, if a company (both employees and managers) reject the factory model and adopt the product development model, then the question of hours worked becomes much fuzzier. If I tell you that I need a draft of a user guide in three weeks--in a specified file format that is consistent with our defined process and at an agreed level of quality and completeness--and you agree that it is feasible to produce that draft in three weeks, it should not matter to me how you organize your tasks or your time. If you go to the beach for two weeks and pull all-nighters the third week, or if you go to the beach for two weeks and work eight-hour days the third week, in principle I should not care, so long as I get the agreed-upon deliverable by the deadline.

I'm not sure I understand Dick's point about the
difference between this and the idea that "we contract to produce a specified deliverable by a particular date" .

The difference is that we don't need to be in a constant state of frustration and contention over irrelevant metrics.

To me this seems pretty
much the same thing, and I'm not having a jab at Dick here; instead my point is aimed at the guys at senior level who thought this time and motion model of productivity was the way forward - when treated like factory workers, why is there surprise when we respond like factory workers? Moral of story - you reap what you sow.

I agree with you completely. Pointy-haired bosses abound in the world. Part of our responsibility (not specifically as tech writers but just because we are humans engaged in intercourse with other humans) is to try to show them a better way of thinking about the issue. It will make their and our lives easier, I should think.


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Re: Average Hours Worked ( long ): From: Ruth Charles

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