Re: Average Hours Worked ( long )

Subject: Re: Average Hours Worked ( long )
From: Ruth Charles <ruth -at- tao-group -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 13:07:52 +0100

I'm hoping I don't swerve too far off topic here. I'll try and address a few points Dick raised.

Dick Margulis wrote:

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.
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._

No arguments here.


>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?

Quite the opposite, there was a lot of pressure to reduce and condense the doc to minimize translation costs (and as I recall the costs of buying the product just kept going up). In most cases the doc was condensed to the point of being next to useless, and extremely frustrating to use... but the important PHB point was that we had delivered what was required by the metrics, and it conformed to in-house 'quality standards'. The end user experience may once have been a consideration, but it had become pretty invisible.

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.

Total agreement Dick.

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. <snip>

Indeed - but the issue for me here is whether as an author I have any input into the agreement of a timescale. If it comes down as an unrealistic diktat, my attitude tends to be 'right, I'll do what I can, but don't expect miracles'. However, If I've said 'yeah I can do that in x weeks' then I will pull out all the stops to deliver - and as you said in an earlier post, if I've messed up budgeting what a realistic timescale is , I'll know better next time.

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

Or that we _shouldn't_ be. I'm not disagreeing with you here. The question shifts over to one of empowerment - as an employee faced with repeated unrealistic targets, my response is to say 'we need to look at what can be achieved in the time available'. If the response I get is the choice between unemployment or ever increasing working hours I feel that my options are very limited - walk, knuckle under or wait for the inevitable. I know myself well enough to know that knuckling under will not work long term, so I vote with my feet before I get pushed. I view it as a good business case study of how to lose sight of the end objectives, whilst becoming highly 'efficient' using tangible deliverables and measurements.

I guess that this is still a bit of an open sore, and I hope I'm not ranting by this point. I'm just pleased to be out of that situation now.


Ruth Charles
Technical Author/Trainer

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

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