Reactive or Intentional?

I was thinking today about technical writing and how it fits within different companies.

Some companies think of technical writing almost like a nation’s military forces. Both consist of trained professionals and are used as the last layer of protection–something that should perhaps only be focused on when a specific threat exists. “Oh, Customer X can’t figure out how to configure Product Y. Get a tech writer in here, quickly! Let’s get something written up.”

Other companies think of technical writing as infrastructure. It is an important part of the overall whole, and if created using careful planning and quality materials, enables greater things to be built upon it.

In between the two is where most companies exist. The harsh reality of difficult time schedules and limited budgets force some compromises, and individual incidents do not necessarily imply intentional standards. These compromises are where you discover the values of a company’s leadership, or maybe the limitations of its internal team(s). If it must err, on which side will it err? Is the decision to lean one way or another reactive or intentional? Is there evidence of planning and forethought, or rather tons of piled-upon quick fixes?

I’ve worked for both types of companies and spent ample time cleaning up messes caused by reactive-style work that never had time allotted to it to be cleaned up. I’m thrilled that my current job involves working in a team that is intentional.