Managing Different-Skilled Writers on the Same Project

Posted on April 29, 2014 by Tom L

managing

When a small firm goes online to hire technical writers or similar resources, there’s often an assumption that team management doesn’t apply and each writer will just perform as needed like a tool out of a toolbox.

In reality, especially with projects that require cohesion, interaction, and regular communication among players, team management is critical in making the project a success. If ignored, a hiring firm will quickly find itself getting bogged down trying to maximize productivity out of separate writers without any cohesive product being produced.

Managing multiple writers with different skillsets occurs more often than many company owners and managers think. If a firm wants to develop a professional website for a company presence that’s going to require a good website designer, a graphics producer, a content provider, and in some cases an administrator to manage incoming data and contacts.

A social media campaign could require one person to develop posts, another to track and manage comments, and a third to find ways to link material to other social media hot spots to generate more traffic. The examples go on and on.

In many situations, managers are often faced with a set of contractors who have different skillsets to offer. This is often the reason why writers and similar are mistakenly treated like toolbox tools. There is an inherent assumption that a contracted writer will just produce perfect product 100 percent of the time when hired on.

Of course, this approach is a false start; if employees inside the company who know the goals and strategies can’t be 100 percent perfect, how in the world could an outsider do better? Ergo, the stage then gets set for confusion with a set of writers trying to produce different tasks as part of the same project without coordination.

Instead, successful team managers realize right from the beginning that they need to match team members with the task they can best address. Writers should not be given a lot of latitude to guess their role; a team lead should have already mapped out every role, how it works, and whom it works with as well as the goal and tasks before the first contracted hire is made. This is hard to do; it requires a lot of pre-planning ahead of time before bringing on board the first talent.

And the story doesn’t stop when the team is hired and assigned. A multi-skilled team will come up with new ideas and input for a project very quickly, so a team leader needs to anticipate these contributions and have a channel through which to incorporate the best values provided. Team members will feel valued and the team leader will have a control for creative output.

Between this approach and ongoing direction of the team as a group, a multi-skilled project can come to fruition as well as stay on track with deadlines. It’s not a mystical, secret talent to be able to manage writers, but the task does require a lot of planning and pre-thinking before getting started. Waiting to figure out in the middle of the project is just a recipe for failure.

Tom L has spent 10 years in various levels of management, including executive, pulling together multi-skilled teams for a variety of projects. When not developing new financial models or writing articles, he also likes to spend a few hours here and there BBQing or playing Minecraft with his daughters.


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