Who should lead?

Subject: Who should lead?
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1996 14:32:06 -0500

Karen Otto asked whether the graphic designers or technical
writers at her company should lead the effort to move
information online. Actually, I'd vote for two options you
mentioned: neither, or both. Here's why:

First, leading an online project requires someone who knows
how to manage a project. You mentioned that there's some
friction between the writers and graphistes, so someone
with STRONG people skills is crucial. If a graphiste or
writer fits the bill, it's worth seeing if this person can
do the job; if not, neither group should lead.

Second, the real issue is whether any of your writers or
editors understand the new (online) medium and how users
relate to it. You didn't specify, so let me ask you a few
questions: Are your graphistes user-interface specialists,
with some knowledge of human factors, or did they take
Corel 101 at the local college? Are your writers technical
communicators, or novelists who couldn't get published?
(Pardon... I'm depicting extremes here to make a point, not
to criticize either profession.) The leader of an online
project must understand writing AND visual communication;
in my experience, that's more likely to be a tech. writer
than an artist, but YMMV. If you don't have someone with
both skills, my answer is again "none of the above".

Last point: if you don't have anyone who fits all the above
criteria, then my second answer may be correct. Form a
"self-directed work team", ideally reporting to some manager
who can arbitrate the inevitable disputes. "Teamspeak" is a
management fad, and works only if everyone wants it to work,
but there's an important truth behind the fad: writers
write, graphistes illustrate, and neither alone produces
work as good as the combination working together. The key to
a team is brainstorming solutions, then achieving consensus
(NOT democracy): find a solution that everyone contributed
to and that everyone can live with, even if some might
prefer their own solution.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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