Writing In A Disorganized Environment

Sections of this topic

    What do you do when you are working in a chaotic organization and there are no guidelines and no procedures nor processes to follow, and you have been assigned to create documents. What is the first thing that you do?

    Research, research, research….find out:

    • if any coherent software development life cycle exists; what is the current procedure or routine
    • all the information you can about what documents currently exist and ask questions as to who, when, and how the documents were created. Note – when reviewing pre-existing documents try to find out all you can about the previous writer – it could be that it was created by a developer, analyst, or manager; whom may have more valuable and detailed information for you.
    • who’s in charge and how do they keep track of events, the project goal, or changes and updates
    • how things are currently done; that is, who does what,
    • who makes the call for changes and how are they directed to the right resources and is there any existing documentation of changes and what the changes affect

    Tips on trying to get organized:

    • If there are no preexisting models, flowcharts, nor processes, create one by first interviewing the project lead.
    • Attend all the meetings that you can and also hold your own meetings and find your subject matter experts. Make sure you are on the list of attendees for all meetings. Also make sure you are invited to every brain storming meeting for new projects.
    • Maintain communication between the team leaders or members.
    • Get assistance in creating a notification program or system routine so that when a change occurs, you are also notified. If an internal program cannot be created, ask to purchase a tracking system.
    • Create a guide for yourself and for those following you. Include all that you have learned to make it easier for you and for anyone following you.
    • Make note of everything you have discovered and keep yourself organized even if the company is not.
    • Use your left brain and be methodical when creating folders and sub folders of projects and related documents.
    • Create your own project plans and add it to any existing plan.

    To help stay organized, begin your necessary documents as soon as you can to stay ahead. Plan ahead and create contingent plans for any unexpected delays and bottlenecks, and ensure that all problems are resolved. When planning out documentation projects, besides analyzing project requirements, identifying types of documents required, selecting resources for writing and gathering data, and setting milestones, also make sure you have the right tools available and the budget required to complete the project.

    Once you are satisfied and have analyzed the project requirements, set milestones indicating critical dates, estimated the budget that is required to complete the project, identified the types of documents (as well as format) required for the project, selected the appropriate resources (in source, outsource) to gather data, you can create the content. Ensure that the right tools are available. If you are a lead technical writer, determine whether or not any assistant writers require training or need to be re-trained.

    You are in essence at this point acting as the Technical Writer Project Manager and you should be congratulated for that.

    If you have worked in a disorganized, dysfunctional organization, what tactics or strategies have you used to get and remain organized?