Re: Average Hours Worked ( long )

Subject: Re: Average Hours Worked ( long )
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 15:35:48 -0400

SteveFJong -at- aol -dot- com wrote:

>I think writing _can_ be treated as factory work; moreover, the bigger the
>writing group, the more you _should_ treat it that way. (No, I'm not just
>taking a contrary position for argument's sake; I really believe it 8^)

I won't argue with your assertion that you believe it, but I'll continue to assert that the thing you believe isn't true ...

>Now that you've wiped the coffee from your screen--and I hope you didn't burn
>yourself--let me pose a hypothetical question.

Okay. [Random interjection to break up the continuous quoted matter for Lyris's sake]

Let's say you own a tech
>writing shop, and you've been invited to bid on a documentation project. You
>need to state how long you think it will take you to complete the project,
>and how many writers you'll need to do it.


In other words, you need to answer
>the same question the creators of those "work units" attempt to deal with.

Wrong. (See below.)

>My question is simple: how do you go about estimating the work? Please note
>that I'm talking about products of equal quality; I'm fine with the answer
>"it takes longer to document the product to a high level of quality," but I
>want to know how you go about estimating "longer."


I'm not trying to suggest that there are no goals and no schedules. I'm only suggesting that tech writing is largely a black box operation. I'll provide the inputs for each development phase (templates, style guide, SME availability, for example), and you'll give me a sequence of outputs (workplan, outline, draft, finished doc, perhaps). I'll evaluate the deliverables, to be sure; and I'll evaluate your ability to meet your deadlines. But I won't tell you how to do your work or when to do your work or where to do your work. That's the difference. The details of what, where, and when are up to you--inside the black box--and I don't need any visibility into them.

Now if we organize the work production-line fashion--Carol interviews the SME; Bob transcribes Carol's notes; Alice organizes the notes into a hierarchy of topics; Ted, Fred, Jed, and Sadie divvy up the topics and write them; Zeke imports the text into Frame and formats it; etc.--then maybe the work units are small enough to start treating them like bagels. But I hardly think that's the best way to keep a team of creative workers happy in their jobs.

It's no different from software development. As long as I have working code by the delivery date, I don't care how much foosball the developers play.



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