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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Instructions or info vomit?

Info vomit—a copious supply of information intended to cover one’s butt and avoid answering questions—is a very real and growing problem in the hectic business world. Info vomit simply spews out information instead of providing relevant and specific instructions. Such action has no thought or regard for whether the intended recipient reads or understands what is being vomited.

It is a common defense mechanism for amateur staff doing a project manager’s job who actually feel it is beneficial to dump as much information as possible on a resource or supplier. This is done for two reasons: 1. To save time going through all the information themselves, and 2. To ensure that if anything goes wrong, they cannot be held accountable for not sending out ALL the information.

Below is an example of a reply in defense of clear and concise communications as opposed to massive dumps of mostly irrelevant information.

Client: I know that it’s very wordy, but it is much better to send more information than too little, don’t you agree?

Admerix: We would have to say in response to this question that we most certainly do not agree. I have been in localization as a project manager for more than ten years, and I can assure you that it is critical not to be overly wordy in handoffs.

Translators generally will not read through overly long instructions, and will rather just take files, translate, and send them back—fix them later if there is a query—rather than wade through a lot of poorly written and unnecessary information in the hand-off mail.

If the information is repeated in several points in the instructions, then it just becomes frustrating. It wastes time, and will always generate confusion. This is why, for our teams, we always take the handed off instructions and rewrite them as briefly and concisely as possible making sure the information is specifically tailored to the resource task. Instructions must be a brief, to the point, as and relevant as possible if they are going to be read and thus followed.

This is the difference between wanting to make sure the people you mange follow your instructions or just wanting to cover your own tail with management by being able to say "I sent all the instructions."

So, are you a professional Project Manager who issues accurate instructions to ensure a quality result, or are you simply an employee who shovels out info vomit so you can go on a coffee break and hope for the best?