Re: Creative Technical Writing (LONG reply)

Subject: Re: Creative Technical Writing (LONG reply)
From: "Kat Nagel, MasterWork Consulting" <mlists -at- masterworkconsulting -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 19:26:13 -0400

At 6:06 PM -0400 4/10/03, John Posada wrote:

Does anyone start a project with a really detailed
project plan...every task accounted for?

If so, what has your experience been and what techniques did you employ to keep it in sync with what you are doing on a daily basis.

Depends on the project.

For true freelance gigs, I usually start with proposal that has a reasonably detailed plan based on my original discussion with a prospective client (or a formal RFP, if it's that kind of a project) and a whole bunch of assumptions that are written out in gory detail in the proposal.

If the assumptions are accurate, Reality generally corresponds pretty well with the basic outline of the project, and the details of the first couple of stages tend to be quite accurate. But at some point, inevitably, Reality takes the bit in its teeth and runs away. Then I point to the clause in the contract that says "If any of the assumptions and conditions in Section X are changed, the details of the deliverables, schedule, and fees will be renegotiated." THEN, we sit down and renegotiate <g>.

Contract employment works out a little differently. Sometimes the employer has a good plan, sometimes the employer has a piece of speculative fiction that is called a plan, sometimes the employer has a bit of outrageous fantasy that nobody can call a plan with a straight face. Whichever it turns out to be, if there is any kind of plan at all it gets massaged during the course of the project. Frequently, for the successful projects, so everybody knows what's required and when it needs to happen.

Then there are the employers who say "It's so simple, we don't need a plan. Just do what you're told." Haven't had one of those yet that was successful. Not one.

Of course, obsessively-planned projects can fail, too. I worked on one project a few years ago that employed two people to do nothing but read copies of every email and meeting transcript and then update the plan. Whatever one of them updated on Day 12, the other would change back on Day 13. They got copied on everything. They drove everyone else crazy. They got paid more than I did. And they got paid longer, too, because after the project was closed down for being x months behind schedule and $ dollars over budget, they rewrote the whole danged plan to match Reality.

Ack! Ptui!

Kat Nagel,
whose current project plan reads:
Step 1: <gory detail>
Step 2: <gory detail>
Step 3: <gory detail>
Step 4: punt

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Creative Technical Writing: From: John Posada

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