RE: gaining control of a dysfunctional environment?

Subject: RE: gaining control of a dysfunctional environment?
From: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 08:58:42 -0700

I am also a lone technical writer at a small start up.

Small startups generally do not have processes in place and are usually
too busy to put them in place. A small company has to get money any way
it can, which often means throwing key people at tough problems until
the problems are solved, and then moving the key people off to the next
problem. One finds that nobody has time or interest in documentation (or
anything else) until a customer is screaming to have it.

My experience is that customers usually don't scream enough to get it.

This situation can be *enormously* frustrating to a tech writer. Having
a manager who does not understand you doesn't help this.

I face roughly the same situation. I like my company very much, though,
and I have enough experience in the software business to know that
startups are like this. I don't "personalize" the situation. I know that
this isn't the ideal place for a tech writer, but so far I have been
very happy being "on my own."

Note, though, that I am not an entirely analytical person. I observe
(objectively, I hope) that I have extraordinary
intuition/insight/"spatial" understanding. I am often able to understand
complex systems without needing to spend hours reading them. I offer as
supporting evidence my uncanny ability to read maps and do
navigation/orienteering, my weird ability to pick people I know out of a
crowd, my strong artistic talents, and my addiction to graphic arts.

This makes it easy for me to function in an unstructured atmosphere,
despite occasional frustrations.

A professional with any sort of experience will always find
him-or-herself in the position of balancing personal satisfaction
against company goals. I think the best thing is to be honest about
this, both with oneself and one's manager. That is, for example, why I
have no fear of posting this above my name and company; I am sure they
would agree.

I would *expect* that a professional who has talent, drive, and
intelligence would *always* have to balance his or her personal goals
against those of the company. I would that personal and company needs
can be balanced.

In your situation, you should tune your style to your manager's. Give
him what he needs. Provide him information, and let him make decisions.
Cast problems in the form of needs and information. Instead of
"complaining" about problems, note situations and communicate what
impact they're having on your ability to deliver on your goals.

A scientific, logical personality is not always necessary to be
effective. *Flexibility* is. The important thing is to solve problems.

Joe Malin
Technical Writer
jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com
The views expressed in this document are those of the sender, and do not
necessarily reflect those of TuVox, Inc.

Subject: Fwd: gaining control of a dysfunctional environment?


I'm hoping for some advice on how to address a systemic problem at work.
I am the only tech writer in a small company, where the people are
generally well intentioned (and less political than in previous work
experiences). However, their work processes are nonexistent and they
cause themselves innumerable problems on a regular basis. I realize I
should probably seek new employment, but I'd like to give it my best
effort before giving up.

The company's s/w dev process---and each group's responsibilities in
that process---are poorly understood/identified. The overall project
management for our s/w products is generally terrible (in spite of our
having separate BA and PM functions). Lastly, regarding documentation,
you won't be surprised to hear it's tough for me to do my job,
particularly with any amount of quality. The whole function is
misunderstood here, and despite my efforts and the quality of my work
(which many people have responded positively to), I've been unable to
establish a basic documentation process.

To explain the dynamics briefly, I report to the DEV manager.
Although a good guy, his comments/actions reflect he thinks TW is simply
a desktop publishing task---DEV will give me info and I am to make it
presentable for clients. His personality is to manage based on how
things (should) work, unless someone can convince him otherwise (but he
can't understand 'analytical' personalities at all, which I am). When
out of his element, he seems to rely on instinct. I often step up and
pose the necessary questions, etc., but he keeps telling me 'it's not
your job to manage documentation,' resolve issues, etc.
But of course, no one is. My boss's personality utterly baffles me (the
opposite of what I think of as scientific and logical). Although he's
not unintelligent.

***My question is: people on techwr-l occasionally mention they use
their role to impose structure and processes in their companies, so they
can do their job. How exactly? What's the secret? What am I doing


WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help
format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content
delivery. Try it today!.

Doc-To-Help includes a one-click RoboHelp project converter. It's that easy. Watch the demo at

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- infoinfocus -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: RE: OFF-TOPIC question about an office thing?
Next by Author: RE: Wednesday humor
Previous by Thread: RE: gaining control of a dysfunctional environment?
Next by Thread: RE: gaining control of a dysfunctional environment?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads