Technical Communication educators and professionals share one important concern: the future. The most important way in which both parties can shape the future is by working together to support the future technical communications community: students. STC’s Academic Industry Committee has developed a faculty internship to support direct connections between the faculty members who prepare student technical communicators and the companies who will employ them. These and other Academic Industry Committee projects are designed to bring the best of two groups working in one valuable goal and profession more closely and cooperatively together. The future depends on our work – together.
Each organization exists for a purpose: to bring something to the world, make it available to people, and enable those people to capitalize upon it. Many organizations exist to also make a profit. Whether for profit or not, all organizations seek to sustain themselves, so they can continue bringing their things to the world. Within each organization, there is usually a healthy awareness of the purpose, as well as a focus on being sustainably successful.
The relationships between vendors and clients go through their ebbs and flows (more insourcing, followed by more outsourcing, followed by…). As predictable as the swings of a pendulum, all of us – clients and vendors – go through our normal gyrations back and forth. And it is all in an attempt to find that elusive, but allegedly perfect, middle ground – but where is it? And beyond the question of where to place work (inside or outside), the question is more about the right tenor of vendor-client relationships--at arm's length or close to the vest? The answer, I will argue, is both, in the right proportion.
Technical communicators are accustomed to being thrown into the breech when their employers or clients confront severe business challenges. Rather than rush into the fray, we stand a better chance of tilting the business outcomes in our companies’ or clients’ favor if we remain disciplined under fire. A good way to achieve that discipline is to structure the communications team in a manner best suited to collaborative ventures and then implement those ventures in an orderly process called integrated strategic communication. This workshop begins with a brief explanation of how the Communications Department at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control - Orlando (LMMFC-O) uses integrated strategic communication to defend the company’s existing business base or seek new business in the fiercely competitive defense industry. Workshop participants will work in teams to complete practical hands-on exercises applying the process of integrated strategic communication to scenarios involving pressing business/technical communication challenges.
Some people seem to thrive on change. How do they do it? How do they manage change in a way that they not only survive, but also excel? They seem to make change work for them. Here are five essentials on how to take your team through times of transition. One of the most significant essentials for success during transition is teambuilding. Leaders who can challenge, motivate and empower their teams through change are successful.
Skills in research, information architecture, interaction design, graphic design and writing define the recognized areas of User Experience design. However, there still remains much to discuss about what makes a UX team dreamy. Each UX Dreamteam has a finely tuned mix of skills and qualities, as varied as the environments in which they operate. Part two will address whether a person has the right ‘hard’ skills and ‘soft’ qualities like communication style, creativity and leadership ability to fit your particular organizational context. We’ll also touch on the quality of an individual’s personality that may or may not complement the others on your team.
'But I don't know anyone is a common response when I give people the advice to build their professional networks. What they really mean is 'I don't know anyone who can give me a job.' This protest and response is missing the point. Networking is not justabout finding work. It's about building a professional network of peers who keep in touch on a professional level, who can help each other out from time to time, share pertinent information, and keeping your mind in shape.
Thousands of message boards for individual companies have emerged over the last few years, creating a window on what some employees feel but never say publicly. Often the view through this window is rather ugly.
Teams, like individuals, go through various developmental stages. Understanding these stages enables a team leader to know if the team is developing normally. Although the team leader’s role and level of involvement vary from stage to stage, there are strategies that the leader can use to spur the team’s growth at each stage.
It's not about what software you use, or how you organize your document, or how big the document is; but about whether the expectations the client has set, have been met. The question is, then, how do we assure we're meeting all the client's expectations? The answer is client buy-in.
During the last few years in projects, I interacted with a lot of clients. All these projects were based offshore, where client interaction was mainly through emails or teleconferences. When you do not work face-to-face with clients, communication is key to win your clients' confidence.
I’ve been fascinated by businesses popping up around major metropolitan areas that create a shared workspace for independent workers. Imran Ali wrote about the trend of co-working spaces back in April, and I’ll be exploring the trend further as I look to set up a co-working space in my town.
Technical language is important to professions like ours. It enables us to define precisely what we are talking about, so facilitating unambiguous communication within our profession, with other professions, and when appropriate, with consumers of our services.
Advances in communication technologies mean that colleagues from different parts of the world can work together in the same online space. In some cases, that space is an e-mail exchange, text messaging, or a shared corporate intranet site; in other cases, it is an electronic bulletin board or chat room related to a project. These shared online work spaces—or international virtual offices (IVOs)—provide a level of interaction that can reduce production costs and shorten production cycles.
An increasingly popular technique for evaluating employees is prompting lawsuits charging discrimination at three big companies. At issue is the ranking of managers, professionals and sometimes lower-level employees from best to worst, or grading them on a bell curve, and then using that ranking to help determine pay and sometimes whether to fire someone.
Engagement. Is it the latest corporate buzzword? Not for serious business leaders who understand the correlation between engaged employees and improved financial performance. They see engagement as a source of competitive advantage. All things equal, they believe, an organization that has engaged employees will outperform one that doesn’t.
Cubicles aren't really physical walls--they're a state of mind. In effect, it's the belief that you've been compartmentalized and isolated that defines the cubicle. The four-sided, felt-lined livestock pens loved by evil office managers everywhere hides the truth: cubicles are all about being isolated and treated as part of the building infrastructure, whatever the physical location of your chair.
It’s interesting to see coworking snowballing as a phenomenon, but like many trends originating in dotcom culture, what’ll be most interesting is how these shifts begin to affect larger companies and more traditional employers.
The first and most basic rhythm of the Agile feedback cycle is the daily standup. It's just what it sounds like - a daily meeting where everyone stands up for the duration of the meeting. When I give Agile workshops, one of the questions I'm often asked is how to do daily standups when the teams are geographically dispersed. While this can be a challenge to coordinate and maintain, you'll soon find that the benefits of the daily communication make it well worth the effort. Here are several options to consider with your team:
Some of the more intractable problems we face on the job are the human ones. But cranky though Microsoft Word often seems, most of its blowups are at least predictable; humans are anything but. The worst problems can arise when you find yourself in a situation where power relationships come into play, which is often the case when you're managing another employee and responsible for their work and their on-the-job behavior. For a variety of reasons, technical communicators are often seen as 'difficult' or 'problem' employees--this means that co-workers tend to complain about us and insist that our managers correct our behavior. Unfortunately, we often work in high-stress environments that make it difficult for us to work calmly and difficult for colleagues to work with us peacefully. Many communicators complain that developers and other subject matter experts (SMEs) don't bother to understand what we do and thus, don't respect our work. As a result, they often consider meeting their own deadlines far more important than helping us do our work, and when we must ask them to provide the information we need to complete our documentation or to review draft documents, we don't get what we need. The result? We're forced to nag, and that can get us labeled as problems, not colleagues.
Learning how to communicate effectively when people problems arise is a key to your success as a manager. To make the process easier for yourself, you should learn to set clear expectations of your employees, make specific observations of their work and behavior, conduct timely communication with them when problems arise, listen closely when they respond, and schedule a follow-up meeting after the crisis has passed.