Palmer Pearson, Independent Consultant
I require many attributes and talents from my management staff. Remaining current with content management systems (CMS), topic-based authoring, re-use, information portfolio management, and other tools (DITA, XML, and so on.) is imperative. As with any organization, I need them to keep me informed of any potential issue before it happens. I expect all of them to be respected internally and externally for their knowledge and their ability to solve problems. That means they must be wired into the major stakeholders. Credibility, as seen by our customers, also determines how open a relationship clients will have with us, and if they trust us. I need managers to be subject matter experts.
The close interaction I require of my team with our customers means talking with them constantly. Of course, they need scheduled meetings to discuss issues, suggestions, and solutions, but that is clearly not enough. Call them. Visit them. Based upon existing relationships, anticipate their needs. Make our true customer/communicator partnership go beyond simply sharing social media conversations. A leadership position is sharing of ideas and driving the company and the customer to the same goal. Most importantly, we must listen to what our customers are saying (and not saying). The data gained from such interaction is what I need to effectively manage the information delivery cycle.
My managers know this. They get it. I need to know what each stakeholder values. When I deal directly with major enterprise customers, I want no surprises. Problems can be solved. Delays can be addressed. Asking the impossible can be dealt with. But my managers need to be tightly tied to customer issues. Only that way can I ensure we exceed the customers’ expectations.
I need my managers to be team leaders regardless of who is on the team. What I value and require are managers who can quickly assess any situation and know how to work with others. Asking for customer input is a requirement and my managers need to know how to ask the right questions.
Clients can often times be very demanding. I do not view that as a negative. It is a two-way street. I expect my managers to be demanding too. By expecting much from our customers, we grow as well. I need my managers to ask customers what can be done to improve their experience. My program managers always ask that as part of a planned post-mortem after each release, but I have my documentation managers ask that too.
I do not need them to simply call me in when an issue is escalated. I need managers who can push back, to challenge any idea, including mine. That is extremely important.
When they do all this, I will get the much needed input required on a daily basis. I meet with the major enterprise customers routinely, and my managers meet with many others within those organizations. Technical and tool knowledge, credibility, relationship building, and a willingness not to simply settle are the talents I need for my staff and the business we support to be successful. My managers get it.