Re: Are best practices standards?

Subject: Re: Are best practices standards?
From: bbatorsk -at- admin -dot- nj -dot- devry -dot- edu
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 10:08:03 -0400

I thought this exchange between Andrew and I might be of use to all

>2. I meant there are volumes of artists writing about their own plans and
purposes. There are some things you cannot learn from this listserve,
that's what I am saying. You can't just talk about things. As you know,
you have to read well and thoroughly about a thing before you write about it.
>3. You simply do: Sometimes (I want to say "always"), the "style" that is
"dictated"(in your words, "planned for" in mine) produces creative
variations. "Plan for" means, here, provide the opportunity for invention.
I do it all the time when I teach people to write, and I teach styles. (I
hope that is not offensive: People can learn to write, and be taught to
write well. You were. It's not destructive of creativity. It could be,
but it needn't be--like any powerful thing, teaching and planning can be
good or evil.) Of course you plan for stylistic innovation. What else is
documentation planning for? When a good style comes along, and innovation
occurs on every project, a good plan endorses it. (That is, if we mean the
same thing by style, which I doubt, since I suspect to you style is
"inalienable", i.e. I suspect you believe "style is the man" means that
nothing can or should be learned from another's "style". Planning can and
should "provide for", not repress. Let it out, make your plan explicit and
you will find (more TQM here) that it fosters creativity.
>The point of my guessing your background was not meant to express an
interest in your personal history--it was rhetorical to make a point about
measurement. An engineer may measure a reaction rate to note variations or
conformance to a law of physics; a documentation manager--any human factors
management--should be measuring, among other things, the creativity
(innovation, enthusiasm--whatever you want to call the human element)
engendered by his/her very human, and very fallible "plan". That can be
measured, and in a non-=offensive manner. Read Susan's post, and the others
that followed. If creativity is not planned for, within whatever limits
people themselves deem useful--useful, I said--, then you will produce the
poor writing, crushing deadlines, etc. that sometimes produce the poor
results you lambaste below.
>4. Please re-read what I am saying. Artists make some of the best
critics, even of their own works. And central to any human society--even
the one created on these listserves or by the Society for Technical
Communication is planning for ingenuity. It's what separates us humans
from the birds and the bees, or, for the animal lovers, from the rocks and
waves, or for the platonists and phenomenologists among us, from chaos and
>5. I half agree with your penultimate point. Yes, less is often more in
planning. Again, see Susan's post, on stepping back (functional downshift
in letter writing) to get ahead.
>But, can you plan for the contribution only humans can make in a business
process? Yes you can, I think that is the central issue in project
planning. I don't think I know of a theory of management that doesn't
claim to do that. (Don't jump; the word "claim" means here only that
theorists recognize that the purpose of managing a living process is
fundamentally different from measuring the rate of a chemical reaction
(although Goethe may beg to differ--read his novel "Elective Affinities.")
I'm not saying all management theories or practices actually consider the
human element effectively all the time, but the wisdom of the centuries is
behind the idea that providing opportunities for creativity does matter.
This is as true in war--where there is the strictest discipline--as it is
in technical writing.)
>There is a TQM formula for success of a project which goes something like
this: The quality of an outcome is directly proportional to the quality of
the plan X the quality of effort and inversely proportional to the
resistance, or something like that. Look it up. The point is that you can
measure the probable success of a project by considering the "buy in" (the
creative commitment) of the people engaged in the project. A bad plan can
get good results if it gets a high degree of buy in. Inversely, a good
plan will get poor results if there is no buy in. The truth of what you
say, that people matter, is what good planning, minimal or thorough, is about.
>6. Your last comment confirms what I think about people who say "Just do
it." I don't think you know most technical writers, and, based on that
comment, I would question the ability of the commentor to manage people
projects effectively. If a project seems staffed by lazy, incopetents, I
say look to the manager, look to the plan, or lack of it.
>At 09:49 PM 10/26/99 -0700, you wrote:

>>> Para 3: >I am not an art historian
>>> >but I am 99% certain that the masters of art and science who changed
>>> >perception of the universe did not write up an exquisite analysis process
>>> >before they went to work.
>>> Well, I do teach a bit of art history, and boy do they ever. There are
>>> shelves of books to look through in the art section of your library, and I
>>> don't mean a university library. Try your local library.
>>An artist is much different than a historian or art critic. I was speaking
>>about the act of creation for artists - not the analysis of art after the
>> If anything, your example proves my point - that analysis is an
>>after-the-creation exercise. Hard to criticize an artists work before
>>has produced it.
>>> Para 4: >By the very nature of a process you
>>> >have removed free will.
>>> I suspect Andrew, you are an engineer. Process in writing is not like a
>>> thermodynamic process. Measuring the production process in documentation
>>> is not like measuring the reaction rate. Monet worked on eighteen
>>> a day, in three layers, etc. Of course Impressionists were "scientific"
>>> about color, but were they uncreative?
>>I am not an engineer. Studied English, Humanities, and Biology in college.
>>Never once took an engineering class.
>>Part of creation is often developing a style. How can you create a style
if the
>>style has been dictated to you. Impressionism did not happen because
>>followed the styles of their masters. Eventually one person changed and
>>something new. This was the moment of creation. While the artist may have
>>leveraged existing styles and standards, the act was one of creation and
>>inspiration - not one of following the rules.
>>> Para 7: >Never, not even once, in the history of humans has ingenuity been
>>> planned out in
>>> >advance.
>>> ?! Which hisory is that? Never, not even once, in human history has there
>>> not been a plan for ingenuity. I think I need to see, or hear, what you
>>> think human society is. I suspect you have been reading too much Ayn
>>> here. I would suggest some reading in history, art history, maybe. I know
>>> this is ad hominem, but I really don't want these ideas to influence our
>>> national arts policy. It's sorry enough as it is. (Another crack)
>>Are you running out of real issues here?
>>Again, art history is a far cry from being an artist. I could stand here
>>night and name off critics of books, art, and movies who when they tried to
>>actually create something it was a total disaster. Critics rarely make good
>>> Para 8: >Merely
>>> >because a human is involved and may exercise some control over the actual
>>> >process does not make that process creative.
>>> >
>>> Now we are shifting grounds. I say all writing is creative, and you say
>>> filling out forms is not creative. I might agree with you to a degree,
>>> form-filling is not what we meant when we were discussing the kind of
>>> writing technical writers, or poets do. Also, anything a human has to
do is
>>> infinitely complex, and just doing it is in a fundamental way creative.
>>> The ditch digger digging where no machine can go is creating, changing the
>>> world, adding value, whatever you want to call it. Let's just agree to
>>> not shift grounds.
>>In that case, when cells split into new cells this is creativity not merely
>>reproduction. Therefore all animals, all beings, all everything is at its
>>nature an artist. Therefore, all things are God since they all have the
>>to create - in accordance to your saying.
>>This is a semantic argument now and I hate those. Creativity is the
power to
>>make something from nothing. Now you can apply that liberally to all
>>or confine it to overt acts of expression and ingenuity. I'll stick to the
>>more conventional definition of expression and ingenuity. Therefore,
>>out forms (a task which lacks any form of personal expression or
ingenuity) is
>>a non-creative endeavor.
>>> Para 9: >If you want real,true
>>> >creativity you have to suffer with the confusion and waste that comes
>>> >human minds struggling to force some sense out of the chaos.
>>> Chaos and suffering. Sounds like excuses for underpaying technical
>>> and exploiting and discouraging creative people.(I'm not sure if that is a
>>> crack)Jobs are good if they feel meaningful and allow for creativity. If
>>> the plan does not produce that, then the plan is bad and will fail to
>>> engage people. Does that mean all planning is good planning, no, but
>>> explicit planning is better than an inchoate sense that we must suffer at
>>> our jobs. The plan implicit in that sense of the evil nature of work is
>>> cynical and because it's implicit it's untouchable.
>>Sometimes the best plans are the least planned. How can you plan for
>>innovation? How can you plan for creativity? How can you plan for
people to
>>be ingenious. You can plan for productivity, efficiency, and
expectations. But
>>whether there is any creativity in that plan or not depends squarely on the
>>personalities, talent, and intelligence of those people who carry out the
>>As for underpaying tech writers. Most tech writers are incompetent,
lazy, and
>>technically illiterate. Tech writers do it to themselves.
>>Andrew Plato

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