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Towards an Agile Authoring methodology: Learning from Lean (AgileTheDocs Conference)


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My presentation on Lean at the GDS mini-conference, AgileTheDocs

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Towards an Agile Authoring methodology: Learning from Lean (AgileTheDocs Conference)

  1. 1. Towards an Agile Authoring methodology: Learning from Lean Ellis Pratt @ellispratt December 2016 GDS
  2. 2. Overview 1. About me 2. What is Lean? 3. A Lean view of technical writing 4. Towards an Agile methodology
  3. 3. About me
  4. 4. About me Director at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company A very long time ago, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on an analysis of manufacturing production methods
  5. 5. Agile is problematic for Technical Communicators
  6. 6. Agile’s effect on writing 1. Changing requirements and rework 2. Sizing a project is difficult 3. Defer commitment and “Document late” to avoid waste 4. There’s no time
  7. 7. What is Lean?
  8. 8. Lean
  9. 9. What is Lean? A process for making things Based on the Toyota Production System Used today in healthcare, programming and other areas
  10. 10. What is Lean? A relative of Agile
  11. 11. Lean in a nutshell Maximise value to the customer Minimise waste
  12. 12. Waste in Lean 1.Waiting 2.Over processing 3.Rework and correcting 4.Moving things 5.Processing waste 6.Inventory 7.Talent misused 8.Not meeting customer’s requirements Lean breaks waste down into 7 (or 8) categories
  13. 13. We’ll focus on the three original wastes Muda Not adding value to the user Muri Overburden Too difficult / Too much Mura Unevenness Waiting
  14. 14. Optimise the whole, not the parts Optimise the whole value stream, not just individual functions or teams This leads to complete, multi- disciplined, co-located product teams Image:
  15. 15. Lean methods
  16. 16. One piece flow Instead of batch processing (even though it’s counterintuitive) You’ll spot errors much more quickly Image: Geoff Rixon
  17. 17. Andon cord If there is a problem, anyone can stop the production line
  18. 18. A Lean view of technical writing
  19. 19. Common types of waste in content “Waste in formatting - formatting and reformatting and re- reformatting…
  20. 20. Common types of waste in content “…Waste in review - oh, so much waste in the review cycles”
  21. 21. Waste - for the writer Creating content that’s not needed Editing/multiple draftsToo much work and Not enough time Delays in approving & publishing content
  22. 22. Do you have an inefficient process?
  23. 23. Do you have an inefficient process?
  24. 24. Essential wastes Will the client pay for it to be produced? If they won’t pay, is it essential waste? (A compelling need, like tests and inspections) Mark Eaton
  25. 25. Are you ʻprocessing wasteʼ? Do you have an efficient process, but you’re producing something that add little value to the user?
  26. 26. Waste - for the user Content that’s not needed or Doesn’t meet their needs Too difficult or detailed Delays in finding information
  27. 27. Common types of waste in content “…Waste in delivery - information cannot be used by end user because it’s not in the right language or the right format…
  28. 28. Towards an Agile methodology
  29. 29. Load balancing
  30. 30. Who does the work? Try and even out the workload Find a long term partner Tricky if you are using specialist tools others can’t use Developers should not abdicate responsibility Image: Atlassian
  31. 31. Make it easy for developers to collaborate Set standards Provide guidelines Provide templates Enable them to use their own tools Share the same issue tracker Share the same review tool?
  32. 32. Documentation as code
  33. 33. Treat documentation as code You are a developer (of content) Use the same tools as the developers, wherever possible Robert Hays, Radial
  34. 34. Treat documentation as code Add your tasks to the Kanban board So there is close tracking of topics to code development Robert Hays, Radial
  35. 35. Treat documentation as code Include the feature number and the User Story reference number in the topic titles
  36. 36. Treat documentation as code Treat reviews and edits as “calibrations” and “defects”
  37. 37. Deliverables
  38. 38. Minimal Viable Product “Just-In-Time Documentation Also Means Just Enough” Anne Gentle Anne Gentle. 2007. Writing End-User Documentation in an Agile Development Environment Retrieved May 2015 from
  39. 39. An iterative publishing process Incremental release Service à la russe Prior to product release? Image: Cafe Gallay Geneva
  40. 40. Novels have been serialised "The Strand Magazine (cover), vol. 73, April 1927" by Special Collections Toronto Public Library - 43021516@N06/8346257651/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - File:The_Strand_Magazine_(cover),_vol._73,_April_1927.jpg#/media/File:The_Strand_Magazine_(cover),_vol._73,_April_1927.jpg "Alltheyearround 1891" by Chapman & Hall - Internet Archive. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://
  41. 41. Optimise the whole
  42. 42. Optimise the whole Define content standards across the company Identify the origins of information and use them Streamline the workflow Image: Joe Gollner
  43. 43. Summary
  44. 44. What are the takeaways? Lean is a useful way to position UA in an Agile environment Helps you identify when “document late” is a bad idea, as a result of other wastes not considered by Agile. Both make problems visible
  45. 45. Questions
  46. 46. For more information @ellispratt
  47. 47. End © Cherryleaf 2016 Images and screenshots © their respective owners