Re: doc review process--answer (long)

Subject: Re: doc review process--answer (long)
From: Sella Rush <SellaR -at- APPTECHSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 16:51:58 -0700

I know right where you are, Nancy, because I've been there, too. You've
probably got both friends and enemies in your former section, and while
friends wish you well, there's still a little tension because you've
moved onward and upward and left them behind. I remember how surprised
I was the first time this happened--there seems to be distinct pleasure
in making you realize you're now an outsider. It's a power thing and
it's very natural. It sounds like it's too late, but I'd probably have
recommended you try to establish your position working with another
department rather than with your old one. You've set yourself up for
resistance you might not get from others. (I'm not sure how small is
small in your company.) If you can stand it, though, you might try to
let them have their little victories. You don't have anything to lose
(in fact, you've already won) and it'll make them feel more in control,

It seems appropriate that the customer service department should have a
significant say in the content and format of their manual. On this
list, lots of us complain about having content, etc. dictated to us, but
that's usually from programmers or other technical people. In this
case, the CS department is the user, so you'll want to listen closely to
their needs. We often hear in this list that the audience is the
key--write to the audience. You get to have a conversation with your

In effect, any interaction with them is a usability study, and you
should treat it as such. I've never been lucky enough to be able to do
a formal usability study with a good user group, but there's lots of
literature and research out there that should give you ideas on how to
communicate and what kind of mindset to be in. However, I would
definitely try to do this up front--don't do all the work and then let
them tear it apart. Find out what their needs and expectations are
before you start. This is classic usability study stuff. (it sounds
like you've already started, but it you work it right, the first draft
can act as a catalyst for a brainstorm--if you can stand not getting too
invested in it.)

You might want to try to take an advisory role. They know what they
want in terms of content, and they might have an idea in terms of
format. What you can do is suggest to them original ideas for
information or presentation that they won't think of on their own. But
it can be a good thing that they're in on the decisionmaking (first and
foremost, they won't use it if they don't like it, no matter how good it
is, and you need their positive evaluation on this first job for a leery
company). Since you've already started the first draft, you might want
to provide some options, particularly any innovative format or
new/reorganized information; this will surprise them and they'll like
the idea that you're soliciting their advice.

Re the meeting, I would definitely try to get in on it, but I'm not sure
going the supervisor route is the way (well, it sure is if you want to
alienate everyone). Definitely try to make it an initial brainstorming
session rather than a trashing session (which is probably why they don't
want you there). As a participant in the meeting your role is to
listen, to analyze, and sometimes to provide suggestions based on your
unique communications experience--you don't want to go in just to defend

Take the usability study tack with the supervisor, you need to hear what
people want, how they think, their concerns, their unique ways of doing
their job. You can let the supervisor know that while you know how
*you* did the job, you need to get a more global perspective, otherwise
the manual won't help anyone but yourself (probably an exaggeration,
but...). Definitely try to cultivate a team perspective here, show that
you're not looking to use them a guinea pigs for your own gain, but that
you really want to help them and *together* you can accomplish

Good luck! I'd like to know how things turn out.


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