20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

How do good workflows go bad?

I’ve been in this industry a long time and I’ve seen a lot of workflows. I’ve been in the position of:

  • Write like crazy, hoping for the best
  • Plan every detail to the smallest step
  • Not allowed to talk to the developers
  • Easy reviews
  • No reviews
    • A personal favorite reviewer who would not sign the docs off as accurate if the word “must” appeared any where in the 800 page mainframe manuals. “It sounds like we’re ordering them,” she said.
  • And everything else you can imagine

My heroes have always been writers

Because I have no life, I was thinking about this as I was walking my tricolor Australian Shepherd over the weekend. During the 2.75 mile brisk walk, I was thinking about all the places where technical documentation goes wrong.

I was also thinking about my duckling engineering students. I’m trying to grow the engineers we all want to work with. This quarter, they seem very passive and helpless. I’m worried that if they don’t show more initiative that they are going to go in the box of “bad reviewers”. I’m worried about other things for them as well, but these were my thoughts.

And that made me start wondering why we get crazed bad reviewers in the first place.

  • No one cares? I see such passion in other areas of the product development, so I don’t think that’s all of it.
  • The reviewer finally has control over something? In the case of my “must” reviewer, I think that was the case.
  • Engineers have a hard time understanding the different audience needs? I see this from some of my ducklings, so that’s part of it, I think.
  • Institutional culture? I think sometimes this is the case. I worked at a place where one of the senior dev leads would stop my writers in the hall and spend 10 minutes talking about how what we did was stupid and a waste of company money and not needed. The VP of Dev didn’t think this was out of line. I wanted to do the same to his developers but I’m too nice.

Modified from the original found here.

By Sharon Burton
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