RE: new kid on the block (long) Take TWO

Subject: RE: new kid on the block (long) Take TWO
From: "Neumann, Eileen" <ENeuman -at- franklintempleton -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 09:24:58 -0500

I'm going to jump in here because I'm in a somewhat similar situation as the o.p. I'm also quite new, and in a company that doesn't have a process for developing documentation. (At least, the process is, someone says we need this, and the writer starts writing as fast as they can.) I also have a writer working with me who has been in place for a while, and who is strongly identified with the way things have always been done. I also want to make changes, to make the role more professional.

The difference in my situation though is that my manager is interested in my suggestions. For instance, I am currently writing a documentation plan for my project, and hope to be able to set up a meeting to discuss and get it signed off. I've also developed a new template. These are baby steps in the right direction, I feel. The other writer will not be doing the same, but that's his business. The plan will probably get ditched when everyone panics at deadline time as well. But it's a start.

I don't believe I'd be able to make any progress without a manager's support, I must say. Change from below is just too tough a road in the kinds of organizations I work for.

And a tip a friend gave me for my situation-compliments. Compliment the co-worker on some aspect of work they do well, even though in the main you don't agree with their approach. It's worked so far in building a little good will.

Business Rules and Procedures

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Wurster [mailto:glassnet -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2005 6:29 AM
Subject: Re: new kid on the block (long) Take TWO

J C wrote:

> When I ask former writer about his documentation
> procedures and working with others, I get "This
> company is used to the luxury of having me as the
> writer. I know so much about the technology that I
> just figure everything out myself and no one has ever
> had to review my work. They are not used to having to
> review anything and are spoiled in that way. They will
> have to get used to you asking them to review your
> work, but most of the time their feedback is useless
> anyway."

I worked with this guy. His comments bothered me initially, but his
description of how things work is true. Or at least true in this neck
of the woods.

> This bothers me in several ways. One thing is, as I am
> revising and updating some of the existing
> documentation and having it reviewed, the reviewers
> (QA) complain that some of the information is
> inaccurate or lacking. So I put in the updated
> information, clarifying and adding whatever might be
> missing. Then when former writer gets a hold of it, he
> chops most of it out saying "There is no need for
> this. No one reads the documentation anyway. It was
> better the without this information." I realize I may
> be dealing with some ego here and admit that nothing I
> do will ever make former writer as happy as he was
> when he was doing the writing.

Without seeing the text, no one can make a useful comment. He may be right.

What is clear is that QA wants to have a stake in the document. You
are viewed as a secretary, someone who can't possibly understand the
million bits of this product.

> Also, boss-wise. I attempted to sit down with boss
> (title: project manager) my first month to get an idea
> of what was expected, up-coming projects, and maybe
> discuss how I could like to handle documentation going
> forward or at least where it might fit in with product
> releases. (I didn't do it in a pretentious way; I was
> just trying to figure out how to survive). He
> basically told me the company motto "Just roll with
> it." He told me to have former writer review
> everything, so I'm kind of stuck with that right now.

I worked with him too. He is a survivor. Looks at your work in terms
of project cost. Very busy, and needs to fill in one more thing on the
pert chart. He will move on in 2-3 years.

> He also didn't want to give me any idea on upcoming
> projects because "things change around here so fast, I
> don't really know what you'll be doing." When I asked
> about documentation practices he told me "we don't
> want to get bogged down with procedures or processes
> (two P words I guess). Just roll with it."

Use your spare time to polish your resume. Concentrate on getting
documents "out the door."

> The other thing, (sorry this just gets longer and
> longer) I hear around here that is different than I'm
> used to is "It is better to have the product released
> BEFORE we start working on the documentation.
> Documentation is a luxury only." This has come up
> when I've asked about being part of the product
> developement cycle from the beginning and working in
> conjunction with alpha, beta and final product
> releases. Is this normal? I'm not used to trying to
> play catch up with the documentation when the product
> is already to the customer. There are loads and loads
> of products out there (this is software) with no
> documentation at all. Boss says they are an estimated
> two years behind in documentation. Frankly I don't see
> how this is going to change with the way things are.

You're in a culture that is different from your first job. You want
process and procedures because that is what you know from the first
job. Eventually you'll move on. You won't be able to change this
company's ideas about documentation. That is why "go with the flow" is
reasonable advice.

Ed Wurster
Tech Tips Blog

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