RE: methods of reviewing documentation

Subject: RE: methods of reviewing documentation
From: "Doc" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 2004 16:24:41 -0800

One of the main problems we have with the reviews is
probably mostly due to management buy-in

Bing. One of the most useful strategies I have ever used as tech writer is
to let go of the notion that my documentation needs are influential in the
company. I will surrender the notion that I personally or professionally
ask reviewers (or SMEs, for that matter) to do their thing and expect
results. That done, then I can
make progress getting reviewers by going "through channels."

When it comes down to it, bottom line, the people I want to review the
document probably have a full plate of work given to them by someone that
they report to. They don't report to me. The person that they do report to
did not assign the manuscript, so no review has been factored into their
work load. They do the math, they see that the review will put them into
personal sacrifice working late, and they don't seem to risk much by blowing
it off.
Maybe they're already working 12 hour days.

You *should* be able to ask your manager to identify the manager of the
people you want as reviewers. Then your manager can ask their manager to
assign reviewers for the manuscript. Their manager knows who on their team
has the heavy workloads and who has more time or expertise to do the review.

If that is what you think is needed, but your manager frowns on your policy
of trading some of your independence in order to get better results, then
you're probably dealing with a company that does not follow a strong model
or hierarchy of managerial relationships. In other words, even if the
managers do recognize the interdependence of their teams (questionable?),
they don't seem to have a protocol for passing work among their teams. They
can't simply bring it up in a managerial meeting and expect to get a helpful
response from the manager of managers.

OR, maybe they have a protocol but you haven't discovered how to submit an
item into it.

All of that hierarchy theory is pretty much plastic anyway. Even a company
that is strongly integrated vertically can have wild cards who have their
reasons and allies and can't be persuaded to do it your/your manager's way.
And even a company that is strongly horizontal might be struggling with too
few people doing too much work. Given only what you've said, I would
suggest sniffing out how your manager would react to helping you, and see if
you can go that route. I think I would also hedge my bets by pursuing a
scheduled 20-minute meeting with each reviewer you want. Take the meeting
time to have them give you a briefing on what they *could* do with the
document. For example, tell them that you're looking for reviewers, and in
the mean time you want to avoid wasting anyone's time spent reviewing the
whole thing, so would they mind looking it over with you and identifying the
parts where their expertise would be most valuable. With luck, they'll see
that they can review their part fairly easily. With luck, you'll get a
review of the document, piecemeal but what's wrong with that?

Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
tel: 360-434-7197

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