Re: About responsibility and fault

Subject: Re: About responsibility and fault
From: "Bonnie Granat" <bgranat -at- editors-writers -dot- info>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2003 19:55:51 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bruce Byfield" <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Cc: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: April 06, 2003 07:53 PM
Subject: Re: About responsibility and fault

> Bonnie Granat wrote:
> >Errors in documentation? Stop beating up the poor technical writer and
> >him or her for the inadequacies of management.
> >
> It seems to me that, if writers aren't responsible for their work, then
> they forfeit the right to be called professionals, and all the
> complaints about lack of respect are unjustified. If they refuse
> responsibility, then they are going to be regarded as on a par with
> filing clerks and receptionists. If you're not responsible, then you
> won't have status.

I agree that writers are responsible for their work. What I'm suggesting is
that in some circumstances, they are forced to create documentation with
errors, often with the "blessing" of management.

> Also, I don't see how managers are to be blamed for the quality of
> documentation. You might blame them for hiring the wrong people, or for
> routines that allow sign-off on inadequate documentation, but the
> writers are responsible if they produce an inadequate piece of work - or
> a brilliant one, for that matter. Managers don't expect to have to
> micro-manage a professional.

In some companies, writers are let off the hook because management knows it
has not established documentation as a part of the product itself. That's a
management decision. When access is denied to information by management, or
when management does not exert its influence to make information available,
writers often just do the best they can.

> >Perhaps that's why some
> >technical writers feel so forlorn. They are beating themselves up instead
> >finding and eradicating the source of the problem.
> >
> Really? If anything, some seem to be blaming everyone and everything
> other than themselves.

I think most writers will admit making mistakes in documentation. I'm saying
what others have said already: Sometimes it is not possible to create
error-free documentation. It's really a management question, I think.

Bonnie's fantasy:

Bonnie: You want error-free documentation, right?

Management: You bet I do.

Bonnie: OK. This is what I will need to produce error-free documentation:
<list of essentials>. Can you assure me that I will have these things?

Management: That's my job!


Technical writers should not have to cajole, assert, romance, or do anything
other than perform their jobs professionally. Befriending a developer so that
a writer gets information is unprofessional. Management's job is to make sure
that everybody has what he or she needs to do his or her job. Anything short
of that is bad management.

Yes, there are bad writers who don't take responsibility for their errors.
Were they to truly do so, however, they would seek to change the
organizational behavior rather than beat themselves up. Are some writers
incompetent? Sure. But the people who hire them are also incompetent.

Bonnie Granat
Granat Editorial Services

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About responsibility and fault: From: Eric J. Ray
Re: About responsibility and fault: From: Kat Nagel, MasterWork Consulting
Re: About responsibility and fault: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: About responsibility and fault: From: Bruce Byfield

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