Categories
Stakeholder Management

Version Control

It began as an easy and fairly innocuous job. The only downside was that it had to be finished by Monday. But I was just the technical writer and my role was secondary. Or so I thought. 


The content was being emailed to me by another person. A communications document for a new software implementation. All I had to do was wait: then review, resequence and summarise. 


So the emails went backward and then forward. Each time I received the emailed document, me being me, I created a new version. Besides being good practice, it meant that the email trail was a change journal. Version control. 


Each time, I made the requested changes and sent it back. No slip-ups if any content was lost. Or so I thought. 


Sunday came and went, Monday too. Tuesday morning, at coffee my colleague says to me,”Your name has been mentioned.”


I looked at him puzzled. 


“So-and-so said that you deleted content from the communications document.” 


I stared. I shook my head.


“I have the email trail. I made a copy each time I received the document.” Version control. Or so I thought. 


I’d been iced. 


So-and-so didn’t discuss anything with me. Our supervisor didn’t discuss anything to me. The next I heard about it was when our managing consultant convened a meeting. 


“Version control,” I said as I explained. Or so I thought. But I had been iced cold. 

Categories
Stakeholder Management

Copy and Paste

The greatest public humiliation I experienced was at the hands of an ex-wife and her then boyfriend. But that didn’t prepare me for my greatest workplace humiliation (also known as the copy and paste incident).

It occurred during a meeting. I was presenting the changes I had made to an intranet to a group of people. At that time I was working with two subject matter experts and sundry members of that group, taking content from Microsoft Word and re-presenting it to a Wiki.

I had made it clear in my interactions with this group that they provide the content and I reformat, restructure and resequence it for the intranet. And I had also ensured there was a process of approval. Each and every email was suffixed with the intranet link and a postscript, to the effect of if you wish to make any changes, please contact me. Which was universally ignored by this particular group of people.

During that meeting, one of the participants complained that I had changed her content. My response was mild. The content was in Word, it was being moved to an intranet, inevitably it would be changed as writing for the web was…

Until I was interrupted by the manager of the group. She in no uncertain terms directed me to copy and paste. She asked me if I understood her directive and carry this out. The pause that followed was a lifetime. I thought to myself, “That’s the end of me.” And it was.

Categories
Stakeholder Management

The Spy I Would Have Been

Last night, I mentioned in passing that one of my favourite authors was John Le Carre.  Which began a discussion about Tinker, Tailor,  Soldier, Spy! After a lull, I mentioned that one of his books I most treasure is  The Russia House. When asked why, my answer became surprisingly pertinent to my role as a documentation writer, trainer and change analyst.

This novel is Le Carre’s farewell to the cold war. It’s a well-written anti-spy story with a unique plot.  It also is one of the best spy movies ever made.

It centres on a book publisher Barley Blair (played in the movie by Sean Connery) who is unknowingly given Soviet secrets stating that their nuclear arsenal is ineffective. That information falls into the hands of the British Secret Service who want to determine its truth. To that end, Blair is semi-trained as a spy and sent back to find out more. He ends up falling in love and plays the spies off against each other.

Yet Blair though an extraordinary character is not the reason I love and adore this book. It’s his handler, a spy called Ned (played by James Fox in the movie), a character who despite acting in the background dominates the story.

And its his relationship with Blair that fascinates me.  As a good operative, Ned  has done his research and is well-briefed about his agent.  But he doesn’t divulge what he knows. For Ned’s role is to ensure Blair gains his trust, tells him what he already knows and tell him what he needs to know.

Ned is first and foremost a listener.  To that end , Ned shows he has a open personality. His gift is to give away small secrets about himself so that others can share greater ones. His talent is so subtle that people tell him their truths without them ever knowing. And that’s exactly what happens with Blair.

Yet we only find out minor details from Ned about his life and background.  We never find out what Ned is really thinking until the end of the book. And then its too late!

Ned’s a man well versed in the art of listening. A man who knows the power of the quiet of silence.  Yet a man who knows how a few words can evoke many in return, enabling him to find out necessary and extra information. And that’s his talent. And his job.

If I were a spy I would have been like him.  Fortunately, I confine my lesser talents to stakeholder management and eliciting information from subject matter experts.  I do work in that same way : proffering small amounts of information to elicit greater knowledge while excluding unnecessary context as far as possible.  Tasks at which Ned would have been incredibly adept.

 

Categories
Facilitation Stakeholder Management

Bunnies in a Basket : Facilitation Before Persuasion

Andrew James Whalan

Keeping Bunnies in a Basket by Annabel Crabb is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. And today things became more complicated with Glenn Lazarus resigning from the Palmer United Party.

Funnily enough, despite being political, I didn’t immediately think of politics. No, selfishly, I thought of myself.

You see, managing stakeholders is a required superpower for anyone who is a trainer, technical writer, instructional designer, change manager, community engagement manager, social media manager, and a myriad of other occupations including politics.

For me, stakeholders appear in three flavours. They are either subject matter experts, authorised approvers or both.

Subject matter experts usually are excellent to work with once they see how their contribution is relevant.

If they are an authorised approver, then even better.

It’s the latter category, when the authorised approvers are removed from the content, that the situation becomes much as Annabel Crabb has described.

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