Prying info. from reluctant info. providers

Subject: Prying info. from reluctant info. providers
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 08:11:37 -0600

Keith Bennett <<...was told by the manager(s) that I would have to
interview various employees in the company for information on what
requirements would have to go into the documentation>> and <<...was
warned too that getting the information I needed would not be easy.>>

Getting info. from information providers is always difficult if said
folk are too busy keeping their own heads above water to spare you
any time; if they've learned through long, hard experience not to
trust people who come asking questions; and several other possible
"ifs". From your message, it doesn't sound like you'll have the time
to develop the kind of friendly relationships that make information
transfer painless, and the managers obviously aren't willing to help,
so you'll have to take another tack. (Of course, you might spend a
few minutes trying to remind the managers to manage their employees

My suggestion: Sit down with each person, individually, and explain
to them the task and your problem, and make it clear that you're
simply not going away until you do get the information. Ask them how
you can get the information from them with the least amount of pain
_for them_ (ideally for you too, but let's not wave that in their
faces just yet). In short, find out what barriers to providing the
information exist. You'll have to tailor your approach to each
individual, but this basic strategy opens the door wide enough for
you to enter with most people.

If it doesn't, you may have to become more aggressive (e.g., follow
the person around, even into the washroom, asking questions
relentlessly until the person surrenders and gives you what you
want). OK, so that's obviously dangerous and impractical; I chose an
extreme example to make my point, which is that you should find some
way to make it easier for them to provide the information than to
withold it. The "way" will be easy in some cases, tough in others.

<<When I responded that I had a difficult time getting information
from IP people, I was then told that although I had excellent writing
skills, I was not agressive enough with the IPs in the company. I
would have to become more agressive.>>

Yes, but be "smart" aggressive (persistent and subtle), not "hostile"
aggressive (outright annoying). There's a world of difference.

<<My two questions are: is the writer a manager as well as writer,
and also, should I walk away from this project which seems to be more
documentation management (even though the IPs seem to value this
process to a small degree), or try to slug it out.>>

This depends entirely on the job description. In my limited
experience as manager, the job includes everything up to and
including window washer and diaper changer. What did you sign on to
do? Would you enjoy doing it if you got a little more help? Can you
find a way to get your main job done (writing)? As for whether you
should walk away, I think you need to try a few of my suggestions
first. Realistically, you may simply be dealing with a bunch of right
proper SOBs that would rather watch you squirm than help you succeed,
and then walking away might indeed be the solution. But if you do
walk, make sure you give them time to find a replacement and leave
things in good enough shape so that the replacement can pick up where
you left off. Never burn any bridges!
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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