Re: Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)

Subject: Re: Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)
From: "Lisa M. Bronson" <lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 08:01:40 -0500

This message is being sent for Lyndsey Amott, who is having posting
problems. If you have comments, please send them to the list or to
Lyndsey directly at lyndsey -dot- amott -at- gmail -dot- com -dot-


Hi Mandy,

Everyone has provided you with excellent answers to your main
question, but your background information illuminates a problem that,
if avoided in the future, will forestall the deadline problem.
Specifically, you wrote:

<quote>I was NOT expecting to find out that there were several
important pieces of information about the product (that I had never
heard before) which should really be added to the manual. I spoke
briefly to the SME that I had been interviewing (who was giving the
demo) and his was response was a sheepish grin and an "I didn't know
you needed to know that." ?!?!</quote>

When you start a project, take it as a given that SMEs do not know
what you need to know and that they never will. However, you know what
the users want to know:

How the product works
How to prepare a site for the product's arrival
How to install it
How to configure it
How to use it
How to clear alarms
How to fix it if it goes wrong
How to maintain it
How to use commands

When you start your next project, make it your goal to find
information for just one of these items at a time. I find it is
easiest to begin with the installation guide. Any SME can answer
questions about the installation process, even if it is just to say,
"Jill is the best person to answer your questions." You might find
that Jill can only answer some of your questions, but that she knows
who can answer the rest. Jill might also give you information about
another document you have to write; just make a mental note to go and
talk to her when you start writing that document and remain focussed
on resolving the current problem. When you assume that all SMEs can
provide some answers, you need not rely on one person to provide you
with information.

FWIW, I approach SMEs the way I approach a logic problem:

A documentation project is a jigsaw puzzle of a mountain scene.
Each SME has one or more pieces from the sky, the mountain, the lake,
the flowery meadow, and the doe with her baby.
You can only work on one part of the puzzle at a time.
No SME has all the pieces of the puzzle.
Some SMEs have pieces from other puzzles.
No SME knows how to put the puzzle together.
SMEs will only give you a piece of the puzzle when you ask a question.
All SMEs will occasionally give you a wrong piece that looks very much
like the right piece.
One SME will insist that you collect pieces from another puzzle.
One SME will insist that the doe and her baby are the most important
part of the puzzle.
Clouds can be mistaken for snow caps; the lake can be mistaken for the
sky; the flowers are just a mess.

Best regards,

Lyndsey Amott
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3G 2J3

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