Re: FWD: Personnel and Quality of Printed Manuals

Subject: Re: FWD: Personnel and Quality of Printed Manuals
From: SteveFJong <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 10:24:03 EST

Anonymous (whose novel "Primary Colors" makes a cool film 8^) is concerned
about the poor "printing" job done by a sharp-tongued secretary, who indicates
that the manuals aren't at the top of her list of priorities.

By the way, you didn't say how the secretary was messing up the copying. I
once encountered an admin person who took my carefully slip-sheeted single-
sided masters, saw the blank pages intended to keep the odd pages on the
right, and took them out, assuming they were mistakes on my part. Since I was
writing structured documentation, messing up the pagination instantly ruined
the copies. ("I was just trying to save paper," she said to me, as I sputtered
incoherently.) Was that what the secretary did?

I think you should take her at her word. Don't assume your position in the
pecking order is being challenged. I encountered an identical situation:
an(other) Admin person who was responsible for photocopying our manuals for
distribution to clients, for whom that task was one of many and not the most
important. Of course, it was her most important task from OUR perspective, but
not from hers; who am I to say she was wrong? In my case, the worst problem
was that she was obsessed with running out of copies and being unable to
fulfill an order from someone who was leaving in half an hour to fly out to a
client. Even after we started using a print shop for reproduction, she was
forever making photocopies (which looked comparatively awful) to fulfill those
rush orders. (She also relished treating the print vendor disdainfully.)
Again, though I didn't accept her position, I can see it: a manual to be
photocopied is no different from a sales presentation to be photocopied,
except that the salesman was right in her face demanding the sales
presentation RIGHT NOW. It was hard to compete with that.

I think the customer quality issue is primary. If the secretary is messing up
as badly as you imply, you should be able to take an example of a document
copied correctly, and an example of one messed up, show them to someone high
up in management, and the difference will be striking. Once that's
established, you might try to work with the secretary's boss to have her
priorities changed. Offer to write instructions on how to do it; that gives
her a chance to do it correctly if she wants to, and documents how it ought to
have been done as ammunition if she refuses.

In my case, our problems with the admin person were symptomatic, and she was
eventually moved to another role. Her replacement was told up front what the
important tasks were, and we were high enough on the priority list so that the
problem disappeared. Perhaps you will be equally successful.

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Group Leader ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc, 67 South Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com -dot- nospam 781.359.4902 [voice]
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