Sharing Power

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Question: I keep hearing about “giving your power away” and “boundary violations” but isn’t the goal of a team to share power and knowledge? How can you share without opening some boundaries?

Answer:
The sharing of power is such a vast topic that this humble blog post can do little more than scratch the surface. We could say power is a transaction, with three basic types: 1) exchange of power 2) sharing or pooling of power and 3) taking power away.
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Scoping New Work

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Question:
When a potential client asks me how long I think something will take and I tell them, I get a ridiculous amount of push-back. Why won’t they take me seriously?

Answer:
It’s tempting to blame this on not being a white male, because everyone knows white males have more credibility due to implicit bias. However, even white males with good hair get plenty of flak. Instead, think about bedside manner. What you need more than anything else is presence.

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Rosie the Riveter

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Question:
Is mindless efficiency really that bad in all circumstances? How the hell do you run an army if everyone’s a freethinking anarchist? Don’t you need standard procedures?

Answer:
Consider the history of industrial changes like Rosie the Riveter, or the early transcontinental railroads in the U.S. The urgency of these enterprises really drove standardization.

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When Performance Metrics Meet Jewish Guilt

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Question: Are performance metrics just nuts, or has it always been this way? I’ve never missed a deadline but strangely enough, that is not one of the things that gets measured.

Answer:
Performance metrics are for investors, to show what a great job the company is doing at cutting costs while increasing productivity. Metrics are ultimately designed to contain risk: for example, to keep people from getting too many salary raises, or to demonstrate a “commitment to quality”.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

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Question: Every time I start a project it always seems so straightforward, and then a week later it’s a hot mess. What am I doing wrong?

Answer:
Ahaha, there’s nothing wrong with you, this always happens. Projects are like rocks. They look smooth and clean on the surface until you pick them up and see what’s living underneath. As a tech writer your job is to document the worms in a way that makes them look like something other than what they are.

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Predicting the Future

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Question: At my old job, I could sometimes write the documentation before the developers had their meetings. Here, all my guesses are wrong, pretty much all the time. Have I lost my touch?

Answer:
I think the difference is that WAK! is a hardware company that makes manufactured parts rather than a software company that sells an infrastructure or installable application. With software, you get weekly patches over the Internet. Hardware has a certain chaotic yet tangible reality to it, and you can’t dismiss it as easily.

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Information Ecosystems

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Question: Everyone’s using Google Docs or Confluence to manage their projects and write help files, but nobody can find anything. I have 2 weeks to fix it. How would you tackle something like this?

Answer:
I have yet to see a place with a coherent information architecture based solely on Google Docs. If it exists, they ain’t talking. Mostly people either pretend it’s coherent already, or that they don’t need no stinkin’ coherence, because they’re nimble and can think on their feet.

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