MS Word 2003 - Working without a template?

Subject: MS Word 2003 - Working without a template?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2008 14:51:57 -0500

SB, working with MS Word 2003, reports: <<I inherited documentation
several years ago. Because there was always so much work, I never
bothered creating a template even though a simple template would have
been nice.>>

In point of fact, Word templates are most useful when you're creating
new documents. Once you begin mucking about with the .doc file
created based on the template, it's no longer "attached" to the
template, despite the wording used in the interface. It is attached
in only two significant ways. To grossly oversimplify: any macros
stored in the template are made available to .doc files based on the
template, and you can reapply original style definitions from the
template with a bit of work.

If you ever need to create a template in a hurry, and you already
have at least one document you're basically happy with that contains
95% or so of your style decisions, you can create a useful working
template in about 15 minutes. Simply delete all the text in the
current file, then do a "Save as" and set the file format to "Word
template". So long as you've defined all your custom styles by
editing the style definitions instead of using manual overrides,
there should be no problem. It's neither as effective nor as elegant
as designing a template from scratch, but when you don't have time
for scratch, it works just fine in the real world.

<<1. In a situation where you are continuously swamped, what is
right, getting the job done or working according to the rules of the
"religion" (which he set up since this is his template)?>>

Both. <grin> Clearly, the job must get done first -- no manager will
ship software with the only documentation being a professionally
designed template. But you also have to take the longer view: if
spending a day now to create an effective template will save you 10
days later, it's clearly a good investment of your time. That is,
getting the job done should not be an excuse for creating many
problems down the road; when you do that, you spend an unconscionable
amount of time fixing problems you could have fixed once and gotten
over and done with. This is part of a larger general principle: no
matter how busy you are, there's always time to take a large step
back and ask whether what you're doing is making any sense. Sometimes
you see that it isn't, and can change your approach.

In your case, it sounds like the temp employee needs to be given a
firm reality check: "Forget the template and just write already. We
don't have time for elegance. Get the job done, or get out." Express
it a tad more politely, of course. <g>

<<2. How can I convince the management that we are understaffed? I am
extremely frustrated. In October, during the budget discussions, I
told them that we were in deep trouble and could not keep up with the
requirements. I told them I needed two more writers.>>

The first question must always be: "Dear manager: What statistic/
metric/other factoid would persuade you that we need another
staffer?" One thing I've learned in many years of working with
managers is that everyone has a different standard of proof. Facts
that persuade one manager rarely persuade another. So find out what
will convince the manager who will make the hiring decision, and
collect information to make your point based on that manager's criteria.

<<A year ago, they hired the freelancer because I said I would quit.>>

This isn't a threat you should overuse, because (a) it eventually
loses its power and (b) it gets you labeled as a problem. If you're
seriously concerned that the company and your workload will keep
growing, sit down with your manager and define a growth plan for your
department. If it's clear this isn't going to happen, then don't
threaten to leave -- leave. Give them plenty of notice, and
definitely don't leave in such a way that they're forced to miss a
deadline, but do leave. Life's too short.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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