RE: Who dreams up these things?

Subject: RE: Who dreams up these things?
From: Janet Valade <janetv -at- systech -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999 11:38:10 -0700

<<Why do you need a process to work? Can't you just do the job and
go home? I>>

I know you aren't asking seriously, but I am going to answer seriously.
Let's discuss process in general, not tech writing process specifically. The
purpose of process is:

1. Ensure consistency. We want all the people fulfilling a function in
the organization to do it the same way, at least to some extent. For
instance, we would like all the check-out clerks at the grocery store to
charge the same amount for a quart of milk.
2. Ensure completeness. We want to be sure that all the tasks necessary
to do a competent job are done, none overlooked.
3. Organizational memory. What happens if everyone responsible for a
specific function gets run over by a truck tomorrow....

Every task includes process, of course. E.g., pick up a pencil, put the
sharp end against a piece of paper, wiggle the pencil around. Most tech
writers use more process than that. I know Andrew believes that tech writers
should be conversant with the technology. Therefore, I assume part of his
process in writing a manual is to learn the technology, possibly including
independent technical reading, research on the web, asking the engineers how
things work, etc.

The real question we are asking is: should process be imposed or be left to
the individual. Or, how much process should be specified and how much left
to the individual. I think the trick is to impose the necessary process,
exactly--no more, no less. Quite a trick.

I think the process that needs to be specified varies by functions and by
departments/organizations. Smaller organizations seem to function
satisfactorily with minimal formalized process while larger organizations,
with groups performing functions rather than individuals and with tasks
needing to be coordinated across departments, need more formalized process.
Some functions are more ambiguous and need definition. Still, the trick is
to identify the process that it is essential to formalize. And leave the
rest to the individual.


Janet Valade
Technical Writer
Systech Corporation, San Diego, CA
mailto:janetv -at- systech -dot- com

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