RE: Who is responsible? (was living doc article)

Subject: RE: Who is responsible? (was living doc article)
From: Alan Bucher <bucherino -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 8 Apr 2003 12:08:24 -0700 (PDT)

(Chiming in late, as I missed the weekend fireworks...)

Andrew Plato wrote, by stating absolutes that don't occur in the real
world with any frequency:

>The "I can't doc what isn't there" excuse just doesn't cut it. Talk
>to the developers and find out what they're doing. Doc ahead of

Ideally. Though this assumes:
a) the developers are willing to or can be finessed into sharing the
b) the developers actually possess the knowledge that you seek

These are not always the case.

>Blah. While there is plenty of bad managers, even bad management
>isn't an excuse for errors. Again, a good writer gets information by
>hook or by crook and doesn't let poor management get in the way.

This assumes that management isn't the problem to begin with. By
definition, your manager has control over your work environment. If
you piss off your manager, "I was working by hook or by crook" won't
save your job. Yes, some managers are petty and vindictive. Yes,
sometimes you have to do things that you know are not ideal.

>Also, the "they didn't give me enough resources" argument is BS too.
>They didn't give enough resources because the writer didn't know how
>to ask for them, or go get them him/herself. If you need something,
>get it.

You have never been in a situation in which you ably advocated for
yourself, and yet were denied? Let me break the news to you... it
happens. Tell your manager you need access to resources, he can tell
you the project can't afford to give you that access. Tell him you
need additional software to accomplish a task, he'll tell you he has
no budget for it. Sometimes you can find workarounds, and sometimes
you can't. Sometimes it impacts your work and all you can say is
"well, I tried." To claim that there's a way to achieve every goal is

>Its not your manager's job to coddle you and give you every last
>thing you need to do your job. Many managers have other things to
>manage beside writers. And honestly, tech writing isn't a big
>priority on their list.

A manager's job is to remove the obstacles that prevent their
employees from doing their jobs. If you can't get a developer to give
you the time of day, the manager's job is to remind them that doc is
an important part of the team. If he doesn't care about doing that,
you're on your own. Sure, a good writer tries to find a way to gain
that access on their own, but it doesn't always work.

>So, take the initiative and get the job
>done. Quit asking for permission to do everything.

An admirable but naive attitude. There are times when this is
possible and beneficial, and there are times when this is harmful. I
once "took the initiative" to interview the support team for more
insight into customer issues. It allowed me to create better doc. But
when the support manager found out, he told my manager that his team
was under the gun and shouldn't be disturbed, so my manager told me
to back off. Not an overly hostile situation, but my manager didn't
like that he appeared to be interfering with another team without
first notifying the other manager, and that he didn't know what his
own team was doing. So I was told to run such things by him in the
future. Initiative appreciated, but occasionally a non-starter. And
not asking for permission after that would be an openly defiant act.

AP's comments are overly sweeping and applicable only in an ideal
world where every worker is free to do what they think best and can
count on their initiative and results being recognized. But the real
world involves other people, personalities, and politics. That's not
to say that I'm against taking responsibility for oneself. But
classifying every "explanation" for a work result as an "excuse" is
naively cynical.

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