Do you believe in magic?

Content managers face the twin pressures of simultaneously reducing the total investment a company must make to produce content and increasing the quality, quantity, and sustainable value of that content. – William Hart Davidson

There it is, black and white, plain as day; the centerpiece of the modern business structure.  We must create more with less while making our creations higher quality than those before them.  Logically, it makes no sense.  How can you create more things with less materials and resources?

Magic, of course.

Thankfully technical communicators are not only trained in various technical disciplines, but the Arcane Arts as well.  Some of their specialties include time travel (yes, travel, not management) and The Impossible.

From the beginning, Hart-Davidson’s article struck a chord within me.  Primarily, I liked that he got right down to the heart of the matter: the expectation to do more with less.

It boggles my mind that companies truly believe that this model works and that their employees are getting their degrees in magic on the side to keep up with the workflow.  Newsflash: Everyone does not get a letter to Hogwarts.  I would know since I’m still waiting.

I recently started a new job at a startup ecommerce web design company and I already feel the pressure of this expectation.  I’m supposed to split my mind in three different ways simultaneously and accomplish several tasks at once.  These tasks vary in nature and focus, but somehow I manage to get them all done.  I just internally worry about the quality of my work, but not for long, because the fast pace always forces me to keep moving forward and not dwelling on what has already passed.

I don’t foresee this issue getting any better with time, but worse.  I can understand the need to be competitive, but realistic expectations goals need to be set.  Like I said before, not everyone was lucky enough to get their Hogwarts letters to study magic.

Posted on October 5, 2014, in Blogs, Creative, Digital, Uncategorized, Workplace and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I found your comment “…the expectation to do more with less”. Are you speaking of using less content, resources, information systems, designs etc.? Or are you referencing limiting the copy/image/platforms?
    Strictly from an information architecture and design stance, I think that less IS more, but only if you have the resources to create great quality. It sounds like a paradox, I know. The use of white space, strict analysis of user behavior to adjust layout/design, limiting call to actions…these are all used to drive users to a desired action. Funneling behavior to a specific goal, and measuring results against 1-2 metrics, is how I’ve seen the most successful programs reach their results.

    • I was thinking in more general terms. There is a demand for more work/results with less manpower/resources/time. I think this is the general feeling that is overtaking not only technical communicators but the entire American workforce.

  2. Michelle Mailey Noben

    I view your humorous commentary as more of an observance of modern economic trends and business practices that demand workers (in all sectors… except maybe executives) do more work and produce more profit with less pay and benefits. The problem is, Americans have done just that, and continue to tolerate this unfair expectation.

    To save money, companies want one person to do the work of what used to be several people. Imagine the savings in wages, benefits, and other business costs!

    Technical communicators aren’t useful anymore if all they do is write. Print and web design, content management, marketing, and social media are some of the expanding expectations for workers in this field. Of course, maintained or increased quality is also a demand. Frankly, I’m surprised productivity continues to increase with the stress and time demands involved in this approach. But I suppose that’s what psychiatric medications are for.

    Do you think there is a saturation point with today’s work force? Will there be a blowback to expectations of ever-increasing productivity with limited resources (including our minds and bodies)? Or is this the new normal we’ll all accept?

    A 2013 NY Times article on the productivity-wage disconnect: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?_r=0

    A 2011 WSJ article on increased use of psychiatric medications:
    http://m.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203503204577040431792673066?mobile=y

  3. The facts of business life and a global economy call for continuous process improvement, maximized automation, dynamically tailored products, localized delivery and support, and re-configurable supply chains.

    This demands standardized parts and flexible and dynamic assembly for products, services, information, and therefore content. This is where a content management comes in, not magic.

    You should check out Peter F. Drucker’s book “The Practice of Management”
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Practice-Management-Peter-Drucker/dp/0060878975

  4. I see where Jessa’s coming from in her comment (especially as I know she’s a great website creator. And I interpreted the “expectation to do more with less” as a resource dilemma. I can wholly understand what you were saying about worrying about quality; it was like you took a page from my work log (NOT journal; and my work log has saved me before). Because technical communication is so broad, often in small companies, the TCers tend to be spread thin. Just this morning I was in a meeting about an upcoming project, and as I was listening, I just visualized myself as silly putty being pulled more and more.

    We’re just going to have to add some magic classes in our curriculum. Let’s email Dr. Watts about that.

    • The struggle between quality and quantity is always a tough one. And I know with the undergrads I teach who go on to their first internships, they suddenly realize that ALL of their coursework is coming into play at once. Working in teams is always helpful, but with time constraints, if they don’t ask questions early on, they might lose all chances of landing a permanent position.

  5. BTW Jen, I love the use of magic to frame this post! 🙂

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