Richard Hamilton’s new book, Managing Writers: A Real World Guide to Managing Technical Documentation, is clearly organized and a fast read. It often reads like a reference guide, a book you could keep on your bookshelf for years to come.
It is a reference guide in my view, because you can go straight to the table of contents and pick from the list of topics. Want to get your arms around people? Refer to many chapters on Managing People. Need to know insider information on projects before it spirals out of control? Stop the spin machine and go to the pages about Managing Projects. Wondering if the latest alphabet-based tossed salad of acronyms will actually solve your user’s information problems? Hightail it to the Managing Technology chapters. Each of his chapters offers the depth and detail you’d need when faced with a situation you hadn’t seen before. For example, if you’re new to Localization, the information offered will help you ask the right questions and help you get started while avoiding headaches and “time sinks.”
As I read through this book, I felt like I was having a nice long lunch with one of my favorite managers. It’s sprinkled with stories and phrases like “gold-plated Cadillac.” I enjoyed reading about his path to technical publications. It seems many people are eager to leave tech pubs once they start in it. Richard didn’t know much about tech pubs, and wondered if he was leaving the world of technology, but accepted a position anyway. He was willing to learn and stay with it. And stay with it he did, for many years beyond the first two he promised to the hiring manager.
Whether you’re already managing a handful of writers or just starting out, or if you’re hoping to move towards management in technical publications, I think you’ll find this book helpful. Even an experienced tech pubs manager will enjoy hearing another’s perspective and will find many familiar themes that match their own companies and product documentation.
Scott Abel had three copies of the book that he was giving away on Twitter last week – get one before they’re gone, or buy your own copy to read and then keep on your shelf. Like I said myself on Twitter when I first read the book, thank you Richard, for no cat herding references.