“Doing the Right Thing” and “Doing it Right”

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Robert N. Phillips
CEO, Lasotell Pty Ltd.

“Doing the Right Thing” and “Doing it Right” are two quite different concepts, and it is not always obvious to every technical writer and other delivery groups what these expressions mean and what it is that is supposed to be done.

By “Doing the Right Thing,” I refer to doing what the client “wants.” I use the latter term with reservation because the following two points often make the difference between profit and loss on a project:

  • What the client thinks they want
  • What the client needs

Therefore, the most important component of “Doing the Right Thing” is to make sure we know what it is. Our development process must have clearly defined requirements gathering, assessment, and verification steps. The process also needs formal agreement steps for the customer to agree that we have definitely understood the problem, that we have the right requirements, and that we have the right solution designed (irrespective of whether it is a document or something else). “Right” means the client agrees the solution will meet the requirements. With all that in place, we can be reasonably assured we are going to be “Doing the Right Thing.”

“Doing it Right” is also known as Governance, sometimes known as Quality Assurance or Quality Control (however, each successive term in this list has a narrower view than the one before it). “Doing it Right” is all of those things. The process for “Doing it Right” must address at least the following elements:

  • Standards (internal or external) for the work
  • Client-relationship maintenance
  • Client review and feedback
  • Change management
  • Configuration management
  • Backup and recovery
  • Disaster plan
  • Escalation mechanism
  • Verification and test

Consider the disaster plan as an example. It is very tempting to think “my job is too small for something like a Disaster Plan.” Is it? The job you are working on right now—when is it due? If it consists of delivering a document, what is the worst-case scenario—printing it at 3am when everyone else has gone home? What can go wrong includes

  • Run out of paper (where can you get more?)
  • Run out of toner/drum/whatever (where are the spares?)
  • Network connection fails (where is the cable to plug the printer directly into the PC?)
  • The hard disk dies (where is the spare computer, where is the latest backup, and how old is it?)

Question: Do you need a Disaster Plan for your current job? We worked on a major proposal many years ago for a client who knew very little about how to prepare a proposal, but insisted they had everything organised. We were called in 10 days before the proposal was due for all sorts of impossible things, but the worst one was to print the job at 3am. It was all finished and packed up and the delivery people left the office to deliver it. The company’s network died 2 hours later and was down for two days. Do you need a Disaster Plan for your current job? A disaster plan is part of “Doing it Right.” Sometimes a disaster plan means thinking about the items in the list above and jotting down the decisions/answers/policy in an email to the whole team (including the client).