Do I have a right to feel POed?

Subject: Do I have a right to feel POed?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 13:17:32 -0400

Karen Gloor reports that after scheduling the "big release" for Oct. 24, the
Development Manager <<... calls an emergency meeting, to which I was not
invited. Testing, development and others WERE invited. The release is now
being pushed back to Dec. 20, with several maintanance releases to be
scheduled in between. He had prepared slides for this meeting, so it was not
impromtu. I had to find this information out from a friend on the testing
team... no official word yet from him to me regarding this major change.>>

Sympathies. This is yet another eloquent example of why every techwhirler
should go to great lengths to cultivate the friendship of the development
staff. They're your only reliable source of information, even if their
manager isn't particularly pointy-haired.

<<Of course, since I am 6 months pregnant and will most likely NOT be here
on the new delivery date, the impact is HUGE on the documentation team. This
morning I sent a carefully worded email to him, my manager and the program
manager for this project indicating that I probably should have been invited
since this does impact the release as a whole.>>

Sending that e-mail was very satisfying, wasn't it? I know, since I just
sent a matching one to one of our managers last week. However, after writing
a scathingly sarcastic note ("You knew about this 3 months ago and you're
only telling me now? Did you have a lobotomy while you were away on
vacation?") without putting anyone's name in the "To:" field (thereby
ensuring I couldn't accidentally send it <g>), I carefully rewrote the note
to remind him of our excellent working relationship, how happy he was with
my previous work, and that I'm happy to bust my butt to help him meet his
deadline (as I did the last time too). A little guilt is a wonderful thing.

Less facetiously, I also followed this up with a face to face meeting to
make sure we communicated in the warm human style rather than with cold
electrons. He's now a happy camper, and I'm hard at work trying to meet his
deadline. My manager and I met with him, discussed current priorities for my
time (I'm the only writer/editor), and established a schedule that satisfied
everyone. Worked less well than starting the docs 3 months ago, but well
enough to make everyone happy.

<<I am Pissed. I have worked very hard to become an integral part of this
team and I can see now that my efforts have fallen short.>>

You've got a right to be pissed, but that changes nothing, and letting
everyone know you're pissed won't help your cause in the slightest. Savor
your most graphic revenge fantasies, share them with trusted friends, then
get over it and figure out how to move on without poisoning your work
environment. Most importantly, don't bear a grudge against the development
manager; the schedule change was probably not his idea, and he's probably
feeling every bit as angry as you are--only at the Marketing department for
wrecking all his plans, or at the developers for failing to meet his
schedule. Even if the problem is entirely the manager's fault, what good is
getting angry at him going to do?

What this really means is that you need to do some serious planning
***now*** so you can schedule the new work based on the resources that will
be in place nearer to the deadline. The good news is that if you were
originally going to meet your Oct. 24th deadline, the vast majority of the
work is behind you already; plus, you've just been given an extension of
your deadline. Now you're in "keep up with the developers" mode, a much
easier place to be.

<<Any advice on what in the heck I can do to make documentation a mindset
rather than an afterthought?>>

Operant conditioning would work. Set up a motion sensor connected to a tape
recorder hidden in the ventilation ductwork so that every time the manager
enters his office, he hears a voice shouting from the heavens "Don't forget
the documentation, you imbecile!" After a month or two of this, he'll either
be clinically insane--end of problem--or he'll remember you--also end of
problem. Serious suggestions? Keep trying, but remember rule 1 of managers:
You can lead a manager to clues, but you can't force them to think. Rule 2?
Even managers have managers, and if you think you're fed up, try to imagine
how much worse the situation gets as you rise through the chain of command.
(cf. "The Peter Principle")

<<I have... worked very closely with developers to let them know that I am
there for them and am trying very hard to understand
the technical aspects of this product, which seems to be a moving target
from one day to the next.>>

And it worked brilliantly, don't you think? One of them gave you precisely
the warning you needed. Keep plugging away at being a friend to the
developers, not just someone who annoys them with documentation reviews, and
they'll continue to be your lifeline in these situations.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is
noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience,
which is the bitterest."--Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478

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