Re: Respect

Subject: Re: Respect
From: David Orr <dorr -at- ORRNET -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 10:09:41 -0600

Tech writers can gain respect by being accurate in time estimates.
Impossible? No, here's how:

1. Writers need to track their own numbers in their environment. How
long does it take on average to do a page of doc start to finish,
including all the time spent on research, meetings, design, writing,
editing, and review. Dead time waiting for reviews can also be tracked.
Over a period of months, clear averages emerge.

2. Writers also need to link time estimates to project assumptions in
some written form. A castle takes so much time and budget; a modest
cottage takes proportionately less.

3. At every team meeting, openly compare assumptions with time
estimates, changing the latter as the former change. In irrational
environments, like a software developer before a Comdex show, calmly
state the logistical requirements in terms of how many extra hours
people will have to work to accommodate the changed assumptions, or what
will have to be dropped from the documentation to meet the new,
impossible deadline. Ask those making the demands if they are willing to
accept the consequences of these requirements--like team members
quitting if they have to work 100 hours week for three weeks.

After a time of denial, eventually team members will see that you can't
argue with the numbers, particularly if the writer keeps them with
integrity. The attitude will be, "If Jane says it's going to take that
long, it will." This is respect. I've seen this approach work
successfully since 1983, when I was a rookie writer.

David Orr
Orr & Associates

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