Wilson & Associates Monthly Newsletter, October 2017
By: Bonnie Denham
I’ll never forget that phone call.
I received it while I was in a meeting. It has shaped the way I manage documents in my role as a Technical Editor ever since, even after changing companies.
“Bonnie, where is the completion program?!”
Me: “What do you mean ‘where is it?’”
“It’s not on the server! It’s gone!”
That completion program was supposed to go to print in just three short days before being shipped offshore to a rig that would be waiting. I quickly clicked my way to the location on the server where I knew the procedure sections should be. The panicked voice on the other end of the phone was right; it was gone. I checked other nearby folders to see if it had accidentally gotten dragged somewhere else. No luck. We called IT – it would take at least a week to try to recover it.
Even in those days before SharePoint I didn’t trust “the server.” I had a copy of the procedure sections for that completion program saved to my hard drive, but, it was three days old. Nonetheless, that’s what the team started from. We worked tirelessly to not only remember and re-do the work from the past three days, but to also finish the program.
As I’m sure you can guess, everything worked out, and the program arrived at the rig on time; after all, there was no alternative. A rig that costs upwards of half a million dollars per day does not wait.
Since then I’ve always encouraged the teams I support to utilize SharePoint, using the story above to caution what can happen if you don’t. One thing about SharePoint that I like best is that it keeps older versions of files in the background, safe and sound in case you need them. Even when a file is deleted it spends some time in SharePoint’s recycle bin before it’s truly deleted. Safety net features like those are really nice to have. Technology can be a life saver, but at times it also has the potential to eat your lunch. It’s well worth having someone guide you toward technologies that will work for you and not against you.
Engineering teams have their “lessons learned;” so do good Technical Editors. I have learnings for every task I perform to reduce the office NPT (non-productive time) of the teams I support as we work together, pooling our expertise to achieve continuous improvement on a daily basis.
You know you have a good thing going when you have people supporting you that ‘get it’ – people who have been through thick and thin with similar teams in diverse circumstances. I’m lucky to work with a company made up of such people.
There are a lot of things that shape you and the way you do things over the course of a career – some good, some bad. Those learnings that you bring to the table, which help fuel continuous improvement and reduce office NPT, are hugely important, though the war stories make the company holiday party more fun.
While it may seem easier to the individual to use a personalized process in the work place, using a standardized (and well thought out) process saves a company time and money in the long run and makes it easier for team members to seamlessly move between projects. This is compounded when collaboration, technology, and computers enter the equation. There is nothing inherently bad about being unique, and doing things the way you are comfortable doing them is great. Creativity is a good thing. In modern offices and work settings, however, a lot of time and thought goes into what is seemingly the tiniest of details. Some examples of those “tiny details” may include: where to save that file you are working on, what software to use, and even how and when to solicit comments and feedback. It may sound trivial, but having everyone on your team operating under the same process every time is extremely valuable.
The problem with each person having an individual process is not with the individual. It all makes perfect sense and, after all, it just works right. Files are exactly where you left them, your programs work (most of the time), and you just find it easier to send that document as an attachment and ask for comments that way. But when everyone has their own individual way of doing things, consistency is sacrificed and what results is almost always counter-productive to the broader team’s success.
Set a Reminder to Follow Up on an Email in Outlook
We all get a LOT of email.
If you’re not one of those people who meticulously files them you can end up with an inbox that contains hundreds of emails – some are redundant, some are outdated, some are just FYIs, and still others require action ranging from immediately to some point in the future. Keep project communication timely with these tips and tricks.
One way to stay on top of important emails that require action is to set an email reminder immediately after you read the email. Just like reminders pop up for meeting events as the start time approaches, you can similarly schedule a reminder to take action on an email.
1. Locate the email you want to remind yourself to respond to, and right-click on it.
2. Look down the list until you see “Follow Up” with a red flag icon, and mouse-over it.
3. Click on “Add Reminder” from the list of options that appear.
4. Next, make sure the Reminder box is checked, and then click the drop-down arrows to the right of the date and time to indicate when you would like to receive a reminder to respond to the email. When finished, click OK.
- Below is an example of the reminder that you will get on the day and time you selected.
Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.