Book Review: Technical Writing Management by Steven A. Schwarzman

by Arnold Burian
While reviewing Managing Writers by Richard Hamilton, I lamented about the lack of good documentation management mentoring in our industry. I’m still lamenting, but I am excited to see another author stepping forward in an attempt to fill that void. Technical Writing Management by Steven A. Schwarzman offers a very comprehensive list of best practices for every aspect of documentation management, and even spills over to adjacent topics.

The first point worth noting is the writing style; this is a conversation between Schwarzman and you. I have been fortunate to have had management mentors at various times in my career, and understand the importance of absorbing their experiences. Many conversations over a beer or sandwich have been as valuable, if not more so, than classroom lectures. Technical Writing Management is an extension of these interactions; the text is accessible, practical, and frank. There is a theme of “I have done this…and this is what has worked for me” contained in each section.

And what Schwarzman has experienced is exhaustive. The breadth and scope of topics is wide. He covers all the basics, including how to hire writers, the day-today activities of managing a writing team, evaluating performance, managing projects, and much more. Beyond the typical management tasks, he delves into running a technical writing business and managing a technical training department. As an example, Schwarzman provides in-depth information on estimating project effort, including factoring individual attributes of writers. I have attempted to treat writers as equals – any writer can jump in at any project at any time. He provides excellent reasoning as to why this hurts effort estimation.

One particular section I would like to highlight describes building relationships with other departments. As a writer, you may be oblivious to the need for improving the perception of your department within your company. A manager, however, needs to be keenly aware of any opportunities that arise here. Technical writers need to be seen as valued members of each project/product team. Schwarzman is not saying “act like a peer and you’ll be treated like a peer” – he provides specific guidance on proactively establishing and maintaining a positive team identity.

My personal experiences overlap and validate much of the content in Technical Writing Management. But I was still excited to fill in many of my knowledge gaps, identify areas where I can improve our team environment, and prepare for events that I have not yet experienced in my professional career. As you can see from the photo, I flagged a number of pages for further review.
This is an easy book to recommend.
Technical Writing Management by Steven A. Schwarzman is available at Amazon in both print and ebook formats.

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