Re: project assignment/priority

Subject: Re: project assignment/priority
From: "Madigan, Paul" <p -dot- madigan -at- TECHSMITH -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 1995 09:05:49 -0600

> Customer: Well, my manager moved the release date to two weeks
> from now, so my project leader says you've got one week to finish
> Document A, not four weeks.

> Writer: I'll see your manager and project leader, and I'll raise
> you to my manager, her manager, and a director who just decided to
> put Document A on hold so I can devote all of my time to Document
> B, which was taken *off* hold last week and must go to the printer
> before the end of the month.

Technical Documentation, by it's nature, often seems to be a highly
constrained resource caught between a rock and a hard place. Quite often
the rock is moved closer without our input.

Change in this area is a slow process. Usually one that involves pushing
back and pushing uphill. Most of it has to do with correcting poor
project management, commitments made with a disregard for process or lack
of understanding of what it is we do and how. An effective, informed and
sympathetic manager can be an indispensable ally here.

The effective solutions involve educating those immediately preceding you
in the process chain of your requirements, concerns and minimum standards
to perform effectively. The common misconception that you are a glorified
word processor needs to be dispelled.

The emphasis on accuracy, content and customer perceptions needs to be
reiterated. When they produce a new car, they don't meet delivery dates
by skimping on the paint job. It will be the first thing the customer
sees and everything else will be judged by it.

This information needs to travel uphill to salespeople, executives and
anyone else who is making customer commitments. They need to understand
what they can and cannot promise to your customers. This applies even if
your customers are internal, especially if they are internal. Your image
as a professional depends upon it.

When commitments are made that are unreasonable, you need to tell them
that. Offering reasonable compromises with explanations will often get
you where you need to be. Don't let someone portray you as the
uncooperative cog in the machine. The uncooperative cog is the one who
made the commitments with checking with the resources it would require.
It only takes one call back to a customer to renegotiate a deadline for
that cog to get the idea.

You are a professional. You produce professional documents. If they need
further insight, offer to job swap for a day. Everyone I know that has
done this, gains a renewed respect for our profession.

If the documentation is incomplete, unprofessional or incorrect, you can
be sure that no one will remember the moved deadline, customer promises
or late nights. It will be a reflection of you, your process and your
skill set.

I wish you well in this endeavor. It's a never-ending battle between
quality and time. Help others to understand that they are codependent.
You cannot alter one without affecting the other.

Paul Madigan
TechSmith Corporation
East Lansing, MI

"So it shall be written, so it shall be done..."

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