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 21:41:44 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: "Andrew Plato" <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Cc: <bgranat -at- editors-writers -dot- info>
Sent: April 06, 2003 08:46 PM
Subject: Re: About responsibility and fault

> "Bonnie Granat" <> wrote
> > I agree that writers are responsible for their work. What I'm suggesting
> > that in some circumstances, they are forced to create documentation with
> > errors, often with the "blessing" of management.
> Then how is that an error?

It's an error because the information is wrong.

> Truth is a relative concept. Just because you, personally, disagree with
> employer's methods, technologies, or designs, doesn't mean they are wrong.
> you see as errors may very well be correct.

I'm talking about factual errors. Errors that management says "We don't have
time to fix."

I am also not talking about my employer. If you are using "you" to mean
something other than the word normally means, please indicate this. I often
use "one" to refer to an indefinite person.

> > In some companies, writers are let off the hook because management knows
> > has not established documentation as a part of the product itself. That's
> > management decision. When access is denied to information by management,
> > when management does not exert its influence to make information
> > writers often just do the best they can.
> There is an assumption in this argument that the writer is utterly powerless
> get this information. One of my contentions with Jeff was that if you view
> yourself as powerless, then you really will be powerless and at the mercy of
> others to get your job done.

The way that writers get their information differs from place to place, but it
is management's main job to be sure that employees have the raw materials that
they need to perform their jobs. One *is* powerless in an organizational
structure that crowds out documentation as a frill.

> > I think most writers will admit making mistakes in documentation. I'm
> > what others have said already: Sometimes it is not possible to create
> > error-free documentation.
> Its never possible to create error-free docs. Errors are normal. That's not
> point. The point is accepting responsibility for those errors.

So the writer accepts responsibility? What is that, really? It may well be the
writer saying, "Yes, I chose feeding my family over fighting over a principle
with my manager and then losing my job. I accept responsibility for making the
choice between losing my job and staying employed. I fully take responsibility
for that."

> > It's really a management question, I think.
> No, it isn't. Managers may be responsible for hiring the wrong people,
> the wrong schedules, buying the wrong server, and other managerial issues.
> the accuracy of a document rests squarely on a writer's shoulders.

Not if the management says, "We don't have time to fix that. Let it go."

> > Technical writers should not have to cajole, assert, romance, or do
> > other than perform their jobs professionally. Befriending a developer so
> > a writer gets information is unprofessional. Management's job is to make
> > that everybody has what he or she needs to do his or her job. Anything
> > of that is bad management.
> Sheesh, maybe the manager should just write the docs too. I mean with these
> criteria, why even hire a writer?

Management's job is to make sure employees have what they need to perform
their jobs! Period. That means *telling* developers they MUST give writers not
only information, but *good* information.

> Managers are not going to wet-nurse writers.

Of course, I didn't say they should.

Management's job is to see that
> groups have direction.

No. Management's job is to see that employees perform their jobs according to
the vision of the management.

And part of that aspect is ensuring resources and tasks
> are delegated properly. A manager is not responsible for making sure a
> technical writer has every last chunk of information he/she needs. That is
> micromanagement.

I am not arguing for micromanagement. I am arguing for management *ordering*
developers to provide writers for what the writers need. It is absurd to leave
such a vital task completely at the mercy of the skills of the technical

> The whole concept behind "professionalism" is that a person has risen to a
> point with a particular skill, that they can be trusted to handle the
> of that job. They don't need a lot of hand-holding from supervisors or
> managers.

I am not calling for hand-holding. I am calling for managers to *tell*
developers that they MUST give writers what the writers need. I am saying that
managers must ORDER developers to perform their jobs, which include the
imparting of information to writers, in a way that is satisfactory to

> What you're describing Bonnie is more akin to clerks and typists.

I am calling for management to MANAGE. People perform a job that has a
description in writing; they don't create the jobs as they go along.

Manager: I expect you to make yourself available on a regular basis to the
writers on the project.

Developer: Great. Will do.


> Non-professional, low-skill positions where there is minimal expectation of
> self-direction. These are jobs where a supervisor must handle all the
> and the workers just do exactly what they are told to do. In such a
> I would agree with you that management is responsible for making sure that
> clerk has the tools he/she needs to complete his/her tasks.

Who said anything about a supervisor handling all the details? I'm talking
about ordering developers to be helpful to writers and to give them what they

> But this is not how companies treat skilled professionals. As a skilled
> I don't want to be seen as just a grunt that needs constant direction
> There is an expectation that people with a certain level of skill and
> experience can take care of themselves. They don't need to be babied and
> coddled.

I said nothing about setting direction, Andrew. It is not coddling for
developers to be told that their jobs consist of working on the product and
working with the writers.

Bonnie Granat
Granat Editorial Services

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Re: About responsibility and fault: From: Andrew Plato

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