Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reinventing the wheel

It was the middle of a thunderstorm when my shift ended so I loitered in the office. I was talking to K*** about a remote access call that she had been troubleshooting when D**** came and laid a piece of paper on her desk. (Interrupting our work-relevant conversation, but that never stopped him before.) The paper had a list of systems for which users might call for passwords and K*** was tasked with searching the Help Desk Reference Manual and writing down the links to get to the documents that described the procedure for changing those passwords.

It was presented as a project but, once D**** walked away, I identified it for what it was: a test. "He knows all these documents. He just wants to test to see if you know these documents."

"Well that's stupid. I have that all listed here," she said, indicating a paper pined up in her cubicle.

Years ago, I created a "cheat sheet" with a list of password procedures. It wasn't detailed but it was a simple two pages with a short procedure or a phone number or a reference to a lengthy procedure that could be found in the Reference Manual. I had gone over all these in training so this would be a quick reminder of the procedure. That document (as with most of the streamlined documentation I wrote), was edited by someone else. There was plenty of cross-referencing and it grew to a less-useful six pages in length. The document K**** was referencing was yet a third version written by parties unknown. And now, D**** is creating even a fourth version of the same sort of thing because, Surprise! Surprise! Because there is no longer a formalized training program with classroom instruction, people aren't learning how to do the password changes. They are just being told to go to the Reference Manual and fend for themselves.

But, the Reference Manual isn't a training document and is not suited to that task. In all honesty, it's barely suited to be a reference manual.

I damn well better not find one of those quizzes on my desk when I go in tomorrow.

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