Re: Document relevance problem

Subject: Re: Document relevance problem
From: John Posada <posada -at- FAXSAV -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 14:03:48 -0500

Dear Frog

Background: I work for a small documentation branch of a bigger company.
We're developing a great product that we believe the market will grow
into. As a result of our being in front of the market, money and bodies
aren't too plentiful.

Without getting into details, let's just say I made a deal with the
devil (although it didn't seem like it at the time). I 'm pretty good at
picking up technical details, so I let the technical reviews lapse,
because even when they worked mountains of overtime, the developers
didn't get to them. The idea was that we needed a 1.0 and that what I
did was good enough considering our constraints.

Okay, so 1.0 went out and we all agreed that technical reviews were very
important. Then other things came up... Now the documentation seems to
have slid on the priority list.

Ideally, I would march into the management meeting with all kinds of
dire predictions of doom and angry customers. Problem is, I'm not a
manager. My manager is not involved in the documentation, she has become
irrelevant to the product, and she doesn't have the moxie and the
knowledge to go in and say the right things.

Don't march in with dire predictions. 10 predictions aren't going to be anywhere as effective as one real-life instance. You'll just get the reputation of being a Chicken Little. On the other hand, if you cannot come up with any instances, you can be sure that management has their plates full dealing with lots of instances that have a higher priority. Unfortunately, this is real life. Give them a couple of actual angry customers and you WILL get their attention whether you are a manager or not

I've got a nice reputation here now, because I worked a miracle with the
1.0 docs. (I hate working miracles; it means stuff is broken.) I have
the feeling that if I don't do something soon, the doc will become
irrelevant and so will I. On the plus side, I should be elevated to
management in a couple of months.

We'd like to think that we ALL should be elevated to managers in a couple of months...in your case it may be true. However, that's then and this is now. How would I address the now situation.

First, really and truly understand in your head how you want the process to be. Write it down. Hide it for 48 hours. Read it. If it still is strong enough to be justified, keep it. Understand it enough to be able to defend it to anyone in the company, regardless of their level. Now, slowly phase it in. However, do it based on real life and understand that while you may understand the justification for what you want to do, not everyone will, so when they balk at it, you can justify whatever you are doing. However, since this is a slow process, for the short term, your beloved 1.0 doc may loose some of it's polish. However, I'm sure that there are other documents around that need your efforts. Apply the process to those documents. Once they are back on track with those documents, the 1.0 document you are referencing can be brought back in the fold.

What you have here is sailing ship that has gone off course. If you make one big adjustment, you will either stall or tip over. However, a tack here, an adjustment there, and soon enough, your compass will be back on course.

I know I have sinned. In the words of the emporer in _Return of the
Jedi_, I will pay for my lack of foresight. I'm interested in any ideas
you might have in reducing the cost. Please help.
--

John Posada, Technical Writer (and proud of the title)
The world's premier Internet fax service company: The FaxSav Global Network
-work http://www.faxsav.com -personal http://www.tdandw.com
-work mailto:posada -at- faxsav -dot- com -personal mailto:john -at- tdandw -dot- com
-work phone: 908-906-2000 X2296 -home phone: 732-291-7811
My opinions are mine, and neither you nor my company can take credit for them.

HEY! Are you coming to the NJ TechWriter lunch? So far, about 10
of us are. Ask me about it.

http://www.documentation.com/, or http://www.dejanews.com/



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