Guest Post: Chunk It Up!

A long-time technology partner had interesting comments about my Steyer post, Procrastinating … or PreplanningWith her permission, I’m including her thoughts here:

There’s a #2a under Guilt associated with over-preparing. That is, when procrastination occurs in Stage 2 of a project. I see it all the time. The researcher continues to collect more data when that level of data may not be necessary for that stage of the project. How to get to the “so what?” Chunking it up helps.

Scope before you’ve used up your runway!

I’m reminded of a time when a dear friend departed. I volunteered to make the video for the service. My request of the widower was to provide about 100 pictures or so, and I’d put it together. I stopped by to pick up the thumbdrive a week before the service, and found the entire house had stacks of pictures on every surface available. Thousands of pictures. Maybe 10’s of thousands. Her problem was making the decision on what to include. So she hadn’t made a single decision. She just kept pulling out more pictures to add to the consideration set.

We needed to chunk it up a bit. Continue reading

Preplanning? Si! Procrastinating? No!

My post for tech-communications professionals is up today at Steyer Associates web site: Procrastinating … or Preplanning?

I propose in that piece that for professional communicators, most “procrastination” is your brain begging for more preplanning time… though that begs the question:

How is “preplanning” different from regular old planning?

If You Want to WriteIt’s a question of being ready to commit.
I’ve long posited that for any tech-writing project, there’s probably 25 solutions, and you want to concentrate only on the best 3 — then pick one and commit to action.

However, that’s not always so straightforward, whether for tech-writing, fiction, or other projects. Brenda Ueland, in If You Want to Write, presents critical ideas in her chapter, “The Imagination Works Slowly and Quietly.”

Following the “slow imagination” concept, preplanning is: Continue reading

“You Are Old Father William” – Riffing on age in tech-writing world

My new post on looks at coping with being the oldest member on your tech writing team. Here: saving you the effort of searching for the whole Lewis Carroll poem:


“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

Continue reading

Let’s (Not) Be Friends: Manager-Team Relations

My new blog post at explores Manager motivations around setting boundaries, focusing on issues for contract workers in technical communications.

A little medieval advice sharing

I believe the issues in this post make sense for other kinds of Manager/Team Member relationships. However, the post offers guidelines for workers. Here are some watch-the-line recommendations for managers:

  • Be aware of cliques in your team.
    Avoid joining or encouraging them.
  • Be 100% inclusive in all social invitations, whether for morale-building exercises or holiday parties.
  • Recognize “over sharing” situations.
    If you’re uncomfortable with what you’re hearing about your team member’s personal crisis, it’s time to draw the line.
  • Know how to handle “over sharing”:
    “I’m sympathetic. But  I’m not comfortable knowing more than I should as your manager.”
  • Don’t play psychologist or doctor.
    Know how to refer outward to HR or Benefits resources.
  • If you have doubts about anything, discuss it with your HR partner:
    — Accommodations that are appropriate to offer.
    — How to change repeated conversation from sympathetic listening to active direction.

Me? I’m retired from management and now only provide direct services or consultation. I’m grateful that I no longer have to shoulder the manager’s burden of both caring for and setting boundaries for people that I manage.

Is it Political or Personal: coping on dysfunctional teams

My “Managing Up” post on is up today.
The focus is on tips for contract technical communications professionals … though I think it applies for any team where you might find yourself working in strange circumstances.

I’m grateful for early review comments from past team members, who reminded me of some of our more unusual experiences, plus great ideas for how to keep your head down and survive.

I think I’ll tag this as “technology strategy” — after all, isn’t coping with organizational insanity part of any thoughtful tech-strategy plan?
Coping with Dysfunction

Why I bullied editors into compromising quality

Reviewer's markup

You might think this post is about you.
It might be.
I have a new “Managing Up” post at on the tradeoffs that managers make:
Understand the Triangle: Cost + Time + Quality

My focus is on issues for contractor writer/editors and technical writing, but the principles apply most everywhere, at least in the tech sector.
Let me know what you think.
(And I apologize if you’re one of the writers or editors that I bullied into making mistakes. You and I know what quality is, and it’s sad that we can’t be paid to pursue our ideals.)

“Your only job is to make me look good”

I’m offering advice from a manager’s viewpoint for contract technical writers, appearing as a guest blogger for Steyer Associates on the last Thursday of every month. This first post ruminates on my novice experience upon hearing “Your only job is to make me look good.” Two truths: (1) a manager really said that; and (2) I was a novice once.

Check it out: “Getting Started: Managing Up” at