Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hedtke's Laws -- add'l

(If you haven't already met Hedtke's Laws 1 through 4, check them out here.)

Hedtke's Law #5: Avoid doing business with fundamentalists.
Comment: This isn't about any particular brand of fundamentalists--it's not like I'm saying "You shouldn't do business with fundie Christians, but fundie Shi'ite Muslims are okay." It's about any kind of fundamentalist: Christian, Muslim, Scientologist, whatever. They're non compos mentis by definition and it's bad form to do business with people who are crazy because you can never be sure if they understand the terms of the deal, or if they won't come to a new interpretation of what they're going to do (or more likely not do) because their God told them it was okay. Identifying if people are crazy enough to put them on the Index is not always possible before the fact, so you do what you can. If they are crazy enough, back away slowly and smile.

Hedtke's Law #6: I know it's not perfect, but it's Thursday.
I knew I already had a #6 and this is it. This was developed in response to an employee who kept banging on me about how our manuals could be better. Sadly, my writer had a hard time figuring out that what we were doing was first and foremost a technical writing job. She used to bitch me out about what she’d call my "freelancer’s attitude" and would go on at some length about how the manuals could be better if we worked on them longer. I never disagreed with her--after all, they could be better than they were, particularly if we were given time to do so--but we didn’t have the time and it was my distinct experience that the audience we were dealing with probably wouldn’t notice the difference if we did. (We were still getting a 92% “meets or exceeds customer expectations” rating from independent market surveys, so killing ourselves to make that additional 8% just didn’t seem worth it for the amount of work.)

In response to this harangue about quality, I finally developed Hedtke's Law #6, which said that whatever we might do to make the manual better, our deadlines were the most important thing. If we didn’t ship the manual on time, after all, we’d get beaten up for it. If we didn’t make our deadlines often enough, we’d all lose our jobs and then we could take consolation in being on the moral high ground as we looked for another job. Furthermore, I said, if we weren’t given the resources, the time, or the prior planning necessary to create perfection, then I wasn’t going to beat myself or the team up to solve someone else’s problem. I preferred sleeping and I wanted the team to do as much of that as they could, so I wasn’t planning on ordering everyone to spend extra time on polishing something that wasn’t going to see more than a few hundred copies sold, ever. This was not Great Art, this was just pushing writing out the door for pay.

Hedtke's Law #7: Too much rigor produces rigor mortis.
This one isn't mine, either. It was a comment in the intro to my physics textbook in college, probably about the only thing I remember from it. It was an excellent description for a good approach to teaching.


I'm sure there will be more laws as I recall them, but they don't come to mind until I actually have occasion to use them, when I write them down here so I'll remember them in the future.

For more on Hedtke's Laws, click here.

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