What is the best way of getting feedback?

Subject: What is the best way of getting feedback?
From: SB <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2007 18:09:43 +0200

I would like to find out what is the most effective way to get feedback from
R&D and others.

Please note that we are in a company in which everybody is
under tremendous pressure to meet deadlines; therfore, the technical writers
need to optimize feedback while minimizing time resources invested by the
SMEs. In addition, while is a requirement as part of the product (it was
hard for me to convince the freelancer that this was a fact) documentation
is not particularly cherished . We use MS Word as a tool and we are only two
technical writers (we will hire a third one) to document all the products of
the company (130 workers or so). Also, at times we need to document without
pre-existing documentation (and with a system that is under development).

My method is to send out one email with all the questions, attach a clean
file for review (most don't look at the whole document), and then do the leg
work to get answers if I don't get them. I try to accomodate their
schedule and make phone calls, call short meetings, etc. I try to make it as
simple and pleasant as possible while respecting the pressure they are
under. So far, I got positive feedback and most of the answers I need. I
believe that email spamming on the end of the technical writer (with lots of
arguments and questions going back and forth) is not good practice either.

My colleague (or rather the freelancer that works with me) who is much more
verbose believes in sending out the whole file with track changes and color
coding for questions and answers. Even when communicating with me, he would
send me lengthy emails while he is sitting next to me. He was disappointed
because the most responsive team didn't really provide feedback to his
questions. I told him that I find his files intimidating. He feels that this
is ridiculous because this has always worked before. It might have but the
rythm of this company is very high and there is not much time to dedicate to
prose and legends. I find that even the teams that have so far been the most
responsive do not relate to these questions, let alone read the whole

We are not talking about small sections that are sent out for review here
but whole documents (100-200 pages long) going back and forth.

I believe in keeping it simple. I may be wrong and he may be right. I just
would like to know what others do and find most effective when working in a
company where we need to be very efficient.

After an initial review of a draft (or a merge), should we:

*Send the whole document with*
1. Colored legends (for example red for eidited, please review, blue for
questions, other colors for comments)
2. Track changes by multiple reviewers?
4. A combination therof?

If using this method, how many times should we send the whole document for
review with colored legends, track changes, and ask for confirmation?

*Should we:*
1. Group all the question in one single email?
2. Favorize meetings/phone calls whenever possible and ask the questions

*Should we:*
Have them make the changes and we edit them?

I prefer user-friendly and simple methods, which is often adapted to the way
each individual works best.
So, I guess the answer is probably all of the above.

Yet, I would still like to know from those who have to meet deadlines and
have loads of work with only two people doing the writing, how do you get
optimal feedback?

I believe in working with people and adapting to them. He believes that
people have to learn his method and adapt.
The question is, how do we standardize?

Thanks for your feedback.


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