Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken!

We all learn. And, here’s the post on one such thing I learned, recently. For one of the projects I worked before I switched jobs last week, I was the only tech-comm contributor who held the dual role of preparing technical content as well as marketing collateral for the flagship product.

Until that time, I thought that technical writing made me be proud of one habit of pursuit: Perfection. I have grown, learned with time. And, I have gradually improved on my work and writing style. Consequently, I have developed this habit of looking for perfection in what I deliver, both in my work and in the blogs I publish.

The tasks required me to prepare the “usual” user and administration guides and then some customer-facing, enticing marketing collateral to increase the purchases of our products. I took up that dual role on the special requests from the content writing team lead, because I – being the sole writer for the thread – could explain the products’ core strengths.

Though there were a lot of things that I improved upon in the project, there were some that I had to leave untouched as I wrapped up. Friday was my last day at the office. I also had the other engagements at my home to look into before I joined my new company on Monday. So, I was hardly left with any energy and time to manage the tasks pending with me.

I knew – and still know – that had I tried harder, I could have managed a couple of additional edit iterations on the marketing collateral I prepared. I wanted to share only the perfect content with my then customers and colleagues, but I was short of time. Just one more write-up. One more edit iteration cycle; another better version. One more day. One more feature. One more document. One more inch toward perfection… just… one… more…

<Pause>

Please realize that I don’t WANT to commit mistakes – no one wants to. Also, I don’t think that I am perfect. But, knowing that fact does not – and cannot – stop me from TRYING to be perfect. And, here comes the wisdom: I AM WRONG.

Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

The truth is: One of the biggest challenges in technical communication is feedback. And, it is good to assume that even if the users provide feedback, it is only for what (they know or they think they know) is missing from your documentation. Assumptions are good. So, if they never get back to you, you can ASSUME that you are good to go. Like it or hate it, it has always been the way to go for technical communicators.

But, if that is true, then what is perfection?

Perfection is the state of being “all correct” in a situation, given a premise, under specific parameters, and at a certain point in time. Given that to be true – I can’t find a definition better than that – I think perfection is BAD. It stops you from progression. Progression toward a version better than you created. Perfection is status quo. And, I want to continue to flow. I want to continue to evolve.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken!

  1. Hi Suyog,
    I agree 90% on your views expressed in this post. But I disagree with you on the view about perfection. Though everyone cannot expect to be perfect in their respective professions, but one can definitely strive to achieve near perfection. For example, you know that I am writing book reviews on Frederick Forsyth. I came across a quote by Frederick Forsyth expressed by the master story teller in one of his books. He had expressed the two main teachings of his chief editor when he had been working for the Reuters as a reporter in the initial days of his career. These are:
    1. Report only the facts.
    2. Report these facts as they really are.
    Thus Forsyth took these two guidelines along with him and slowly honed his skills to become one of the best selling authors in the world.
    Wishing you all the very best,
    Sriram.

    Like

    • Thank you, Sirji, for the feedback! It is always insightful to talk to you.

      Before I share my opinion, I’d like to draw your attention to what you wrote. You said, “one can definitely strive to achieve near perfection.” I think that is incorrect. “Near perfection” is a defect. It is a by-product that you get when you strive for perfection. It is a state where your documentation is either incomplete or complete only to the extent of usability. And hence, I’d choose to rephrase the term “near (or nearly) perfect” as “good enough”.

      Here’s my opinion: If at all you want to strive, then strive for “perfection”. The nearly-perfect write-ups are NOT perfect. I know you agree with me on it. As I see it, perfection is a state of being. So, once you achieve perfection, there isn’t any other place or stop after it.

      So, though I completely agree with you that one must continue to improve upon their works, I disagree that they should strive for near perfection.

      I hope I’m looking at what you said objectively. Please let me know what you think in this regard.

      Liked by 1 person

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