ANON: Inaccurate Info from SME (Subject Matter Expert)

Subject: ANON: Inaccurate Info from SME (Subject Matter Expert)
From: Anonymous <anonfwd -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 1998 08:42:02 -0700

Message forwarded on request. Please
reply on list.


I suspect that the list isn't crazy about anonymous posts, but I'm doing
this to protect the reputation of the company I work for.

My current dilemma:
I'm the lone technical writer here (full-time, in-house, salaried, happy
with my job). There are five engineers here, each of whom "own" each of the
products I write the manuals for. So each engineer signs off on the manual
for his product. The documentation for these products requires engineering
expertise that I don't have, and I rely on the sme to give me accurate data.

My last project involved working with, let?s call him a "junior engineer."
For raw data, he literally cut and pasted together sentences, paragraphs,
and pages from other manuals I've written (together with more senior
engineers) for other products. Obviously, it was a bit of a mess, but I was
able to figure it out for the most part. When I went to him with questions,
he'd say that he'd check with, let's call him a "senior engineer." It was
pretty clear to me that the junior engineer was relying on the senior
engineer for accurate information. I didn't mind playing the game of going
to the junior engineer with my questions, knowing that the info was coming
from Senior.

Well, one time I had a couple questions, and Junior was out of the office
that afternoon. I didn't want to be held up in my work, so I went over to
Senior and asked him my questions. He answered them for me, and proceeded
to look at the manual and make some comments. He asked me, "Who told you
*that*? Where did you get *that*?" Well, I didn't want to make Junior look
bad, so I just let it go, not really answering the question. I wasn't
thrilled getting left holding the bag on wrong info. Also, I was pretty mad
when I saw how much work I'd have to redo, based on the new, correct
information I had just received from Senior.

This scenario played itself out a couple times during the project, once in
front of Junior himself. I wasn't willing to take responsibility for
erroneous information and bad choices in the manual more than once. When
Senior asked me, in front of Junior, "Who told you *that*?" I simply
motioned to Junior, and left them to duke it out.

A few times, when going over some material with Junior, I showed him some
changes I had made, based on information received from Senior. Junior
looked me in the eye and said, "Don't go to him." I suspect he wants to
prove himself, etc.

I want to add that I have excellent professional and personal relationships
with all the engineers, and I believe they feel the same way toward me.
They have shown respect for all aspects of the work I do, despite my not
having an engineering background.

My question to the list: What do you do when you suspect or even know that
the sme assigned to your project isn't such an expert? What do you do when
the sme gives you inaccurate information? Do you go around/over him to get
what you need, ignoring possible personal insult and/or office
politics/power plays? I'm wondering how any of you would handle the situation.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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