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Technical Writing by Mark Metcalfe, Publications Professional

As more deliverables were added to the work load of technical writers, I started to hear some of the other writing managers say that we needed to learn how to say “No” to additional work that simply could not be supported by the existing staff. I disagreed, offering what I think is a better approach to the very real problem of understaffing. I came up with an acrostic “SCAN” to communicate a better way to deal with a growing workload and still meet the demands of the business.

Say “Yes.”

When approached by upper management with additional work, recognize that managers have identified a way to further the business. Saying “yes” recognizes that we are partners in ensuring business success.

Communicate the Costs.

Saying “yes” is not free if you have scarce resources; something often has to give and managers should understand this. “Yes, we can do this, but it will take two weeks of attention and Project X may have to be delayed. There may be other options; let's discuss them.”

Ask about the priorities.

Return the power of decision to the decision-maker. “Is it more important to postpone Project X so that Project Y can be done in the time frame the company needs? If both are equal priorities, can we get additional resources to accomplish our goals?”

Negotiate the workload.

After you have partnered with colleagues and let them know what it would cost to assent to the new business requirement, help them to understand and come to agreement on the shifted priorities. “A delay of two weeks on Project X is acceptable so that we can accomplish Project Y now.”

“No” should be rarely used (if ever) in successful business. It stops the conversation and sets up a battle. “Yes” is the beginning of the conversation by collaborating with colleagues on a company priority while also dealing with scarce resources. If you are really "on the same team" then "Yes" is the only real way to make things happen.

Mark Metcalfe

Posted on Monday, June 22, 2009 3:12 PM | Back to top

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