Geeks With Blogs
Technical Writing by Mark Metcalfe, Publications Professional
I have worked for small, medium, large, and extra large companies and they have something in common with ships. These metaphors have been used before, I know, but I will have a go at them.

The small company is like a speed boat, exciting and fast, and can turn on a dime, literally. Captain and crew share a lot of the work. A speed boat has a short range and needs to refuel a lot. It has difficulty getting through bad weather. (Small companies often live quarter to quarter. By the way, if a larger company is living quarter to quarter, it is taking on water.)

The medium company is is like a battleship. It can maneuver, has a longer range, and the crew is focused on its mission. Its main concern are the other battleships trying to blow it out of the water, but it can respond quickly. Bad weather can jostle it, but it can get through most storms.

The large company is like an aircraft carrier; a floating city. It is well-provisioned and can carry a specialized load for a very long range. Because of its size and complexity, it has to be well-organized to be effective and most of its functions are specialized (with little to no functional cross-over). There are many divisions and layers between Captain and crew. It is not very maneuverable; it has to set its course well in advance and have a plan of action.

The extra large company is like a cruise liner. It also has to be well-organized and changes in direction are often slow. Some of the people are hard at work behind the scenes to run the ship; others can be along for the ride. They sail the same routes over and over again (often happily) with the occasional cosmetic face-lift to the ship and entertainment. It should stay in warm, friendly waters and avoid risky speed through fields of ice bergs.

I have enjoyed my career on the various Ships of Technical Writing, but I get the most of my juice from the battleship where I am closer to the campaign and my contributions have the greater impact on success.

Mark Metcalfe
Posted on Thursday, November 15, 2012 11:06 AM | Back to top

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