Re: Technical Writer Horror Story Number 3056

Subject: Re: Technical Writer Horror Story Number 3056
From: John Stamps <stampsj -at- REMEDY -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 08:08:11 -0700

Hi Susan --

> I was wondering
> if any other writers out there have had success with certain processes
> in tech. writing that follow a TQM strategy. We may have heard about
> the successes of Motorola or Xerox, but what role models do we have
> for technical writing processes? If anyone has any successful guidelines
> to share, I would appreciate hearing about them. I am especially interested
> in efforts at following standards and coordinating activities in a large
> department where teams must produce a set of documents.

Father, forgive me for I have sinned: I owe my techwriting career to ISO9000. I
got my start doc'ing manufacturing procedures at Sun in Milpitas.

Te absolvo, my son. Go in peace!

Whew! I feel much better now that I got that confession out of the way.

I cannot honestly think of any bigger waste of time & energy for a techwriter
than actually getting involved in the politics of any TQM strategy. For me,
Dilbert (especially chapter 3, "Business Communication" in The Dilbert
Principle) is The Last Word on TQM, ISO9000, and their ilk. At Sun, it wasn't
so bad because I didn't have to actually attend meetings where we discussed

But at Siemens ROLM, TQM easily consumed 25% of my time that could've been
pursued in more worthwhile areas e.g. writing, researching, putzing with
software, surfin' the web, etc.

Suddenly here at Remedy, our pubs group recently was supposed to come up with a
missions & goal statement, in addition to whatever else we were supposed to be
doing as a company. I reacted with horror, but only one other writer agreed
with me. I just don't get it. Why do we let ourselves get sucked into these
Black Holes?

I will close by sharing the off-line reflections of Bob Handlin who maintained
that all techpubs groups everywhere essentially share the same vision and
purpose, etc., so couldn't we all out here in Techpubs Land create a generic
one that we could all share, then spend the rest of the afternoon drinking beer
and eating pizza.

N.B. Bob, please forgive me if you didn't want your name bandyed about here in
the ether. (Cardinal Rule Numero Uno of being a Truly Great Technical Writer --
it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission!) But I'll go one step
further. Bob, if you still have the piece of email you sent to me, please
forward it to techwr-l. Your comments were priceless!

In addition, who would really want to work at any of the companies Tom Peters
so highly touted back in the mid-80s? Haven't most of them seen better days?
And what about companies that won The Malcolm Baldridge (sic) award? Didn't one
or more of them go bankrupt? Give me lean-n-mean over bloated corporate
bureaucracies ANY time.

The TQM exercise in time-wasting & frustration would be a funny topic except if
it weren't so darned serious in the day-to-day experiences of so many of us
writers. Get all your TQM experience vicariously, Susan, through reading
Dilbert than actually having to experience the horror yourself. Flee in horror
if you can!!!! It's not too late! If you have to spend more than a single
meeting discussing visions, goals, and processes (I suggest 30 minutes max,
including eating donuts), you're doomed.

With all the sincerity and intensity I can muster,
Jean Robert Etamps l'orthodoxe cou rouge

Theological Disclaimer for the cognoscenti: Yes, I am aware that the rubrics of
Catholic confession are somewhat different than our typical Orthodox practices.
But didn't you think the "te absolvo" part sounded so much cooler?

St John The Exorcist of UNIX/NT Daemons
aka John Stamps Remedy Corporation
Senior Technical Writer 415-254-5309

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