Managing a documentation project successfully – more jelly and ice cream

This video on simplifying business, using the metaphor of organising a children’s party, made me smile and consider how successful documentation projects are managed.

The presenter is suggesting managers need to, in complex systems, give up rigid control from above. Instead, they should watch for organisational patterns, encouraging the good and discouraging the bad.

The key to managing a documentation project is often more about negotiation than control. Many technical authors have found a simple but effective “attractor”: bring biscuits/cookies along to meetings with Subject Matter Experts. Rather than focusing purely a rigid project plan, perhaps more attention should be given to identifying the additional “attractors” you can create (more “jelly and ice cream”) and the “boundaries” you can establish. These may be more effective actions toward running a documentation project successfully.


David Tinsley

Thanks for the interesting article and I like the analogy of organising a children’s party. In fact I think a bunch of children would be easier to manage than a lot of the engineers I have worked with!

One point that you make, along with may others in our profession, always makes me ponder. The point about bringing goodies along to meetings with SMEs. Although I understnd the reasons behind it, I do not think that approach is professional at all. If it is within the brief of the SME to assist the technical author/writer, then so be it – do it. I am not about to entice you to work with me by bringing goodies. Maybe I am getting crusty in my old age.


It depends on your view of management: should you reward people in order to encourage the behaviour, or should you expect people do things because that’s their job?

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