Re: More regarding help Project Management, and other stuff (LONG)

Subject: Re: More regarding help Project Management, and other stuff (LONG)
From: "Richard J. Collins" <writejob -at- DNAI -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 00:30:45 -0700

Susan Brown wrote:

> From: Susan Brown <sbrown -at- JSCSYS -dot- COM>
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: More regarding help Project Management, and other stuff (LONG)
> Date: Thursday, April 10, 1997 1:45 PM
> I am starting to think that the question I should have asked is
> "How would you manage this project?", but, rather, "How do you convince
> people that what you do takes time?" (I am stunned by the number of times
> date I have been asked to attend meetings solely for the purpose of
> producing minutes. I am generally viewed as an overpriced stenographer,
> rather than a skilled professional.)

Your basic problem is that you work for a company composed of high powered
programmers. Realize, earthling, that you are attempting cross species
communication. <grin>

To get serious -- with regard to convincing people that what you do takes
time I fight that problem by giving my project action items public
visibility. For every project I do, I make an open action log that details
all the information and decisions and support I need to finish a project.
Of course, this list includes all the things I have to do in addition to
the other team members responsibilities. I go line by line and I put a
name to each item I require and when I need it by. Work on it until you
have at least 30 to 40 items on there. Believe me this is not hard to
create. Detail is very important here, be very specific on the items.

Then, make sure that this list gets regularly distributed to all the
subject matter experts (email or memo attached) and people you identify.
Make sure you think of at least one item that a high level manager or
executive in the organization has to deliver on, that way s/he gets to see
all the things you have to do and all the things the other team members
have to do to get the job done. As action items are closed, note the
action or decision taken and strike through them on the list but do not
delete them (helps keep people from resurrecting an action and going
through the same decision over and over). Keep adding new items as you
think of them. You will think of new items, won't you? <another grin>

NEVER take full responsibility for a writing project, which it seems to me
is what you are doing here. You cannot do it all. Period. For one thing,
you don't have the resources, insight or the experience the developers and
managers have. Even if you wanted to match the developers technical
knowledge you never could, because simply doing your writing job is a full
time effort (not to mention fighting system crashes, printers that will not
print and all the other vagaries of modern technical writing -- don't
forget to list these problems on your open action log as actions for your
technical support people or MIS department) You must have the support and
cooperation of the developers and everyone else in the company that you
depend upon. Listing all the details can help you pull people into the
project and keeps everybody honest.

Remember also, that your work mates are usually willing to stiff arm it
they have to meet their own impossible schedules. It really is a dog eat
dog world. Do you see that? Your only defense is to make your requirements
visible. Remember though, it's "nada personal" -- everyone is in the same
boat, except you as a lowly tech writer lack the clout and resources the
developers and managers have. Got it. That's the reality, and it will never
change. You will never be on their level.

Don't be a patsy. Get control of the project action items and start
breathing easier immediately. If this does not work, you are bright enough
to know you should be updating your resume. It may turn out that this
company does not deserve a person with your independence, creativity,
intelligence, guts, and dedication. Find a place where those qualities are
respected and appreciated and never look back.

Forgive the length of this email, something in your post struck a chord.
Good luck to you.

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