Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 27, Issue 15

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 27, Issue 15
From: skwpt <skwpt -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2008 04:17:11 -0800 (PST)

> 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)?
> 2. How can I convince the management that we are understaffed? I am
> extremely frustrated. In October, during the budget discussions, I
> them
> that we were in deep trouble and could not keep up with the
> told them I needed two more writers.
> I see the company growing, R&D growing, and the technical writing
team is
> remaining the way it was. A year ago, they hired the freelancer
because I
> said I would quit. He was supposed to work part-time, he is working
> full-time. Then I thought that I was allowed to hire one technical
> but then when I found someone, they made me choose and to them,
> rather have a technical writer in-house because it would be cheaper.

I am going through something similar. We recently lost 3 writers (retirement, better offer, etc), and the company, who hire writers by attrition only, gave us back just one writer. We were even understaffed when we had those 3 writers, and now things are simply ridiculous.

I have been a member of the TECHWR-L mail list since 1997, and I haven't read or posted messages in YEARS, mostly because of my crazy workload. This week I decided it was time to stop punishing myself, because that is what it feels like. Funny how this was the first message I saw.

Upper management is throwing money and resources at the development teams, but nowhere else. The writer:engineer ratio used to be 17 but now it's more like 42 and growing, with huge, complicated new features added every GA. Not only that, we get pulled off the GA product to do maintenance releases (bug fixes) at least every 3 months, because these things are scheduled, like clockwork, for multiple releases -- past and present.

On Monday, 2 writers from my team (I'm the lead for this release) were pulled off the project to work on other projects in the company because those releases are sooner. So I am the only writer working toward this giant release until early April. And when the other writers come back, they will have to scramble like mad.

Yesterday, one of the writers (who has plans to retire at the end of 2008), told me she is so miserable, she wants to quit now!

I am tired of working with practically zero resources and with not having the time to be concerned with quality. So here's what I do:

I forget about anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Sometimes even that is more than a challenge.

I make sure that our lack of resources is heard loud and clear all the
way up the management chain. I won't be the one who
falls on the sword.

I informed my manager that I will not work 80 hours a week as a rule. They'll get the usual crazy OT out of me at milestones and deadlines, but I will no longer give my company two writers for the cost of one. That may sound horrible to you, but I spent a decade working nutty hours, and all I got was sickness, no social life, and less money per hour. ;-) How will upper management ever feel the pain if we writers continue to perform miracles? My boss not only agrees with me, he was horrified to think I'd consider anything else. I hope your manager is as understanding.

For this upcoming release I WILL let things fall through the cracks. It's the only way. I'd rather write 7 features effectively and elegantly for the customer than write 10 features that are barely good enough. As it is, we barely have time to test what we write or, god forbid, test that *they* write in the specs!! Thus, if things continue this way, I will call a meeting with with my manager, the engineering manager, and both program and product managers, and let THEM decide which features go into the doc set.

I know this is a terrible solution for writers who are conscientious in their work, but it is the only one that has ever worked in the past for me before.

I wish you much luck.


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