How well does the Society for Technical Communication (STC) provide value for its members? For others who are studying or working in tech comm?
We had a lively conversation a few weeks ago on this blog. I’d like to move that conversation forward.
Today’s news stream brings an article by an Australian technical writer, Swapnil Ogale, titled The ASTC is failing us. In it, Swapnil shares an idea that might breathe new life into STC.
First, by way of background: ASTC is the Australian Society for Technical Communication. Despite the name it’s not part of STC. Like STC, however, it’s a membership organization that seeks to advance the profession through published articles, events and activities, and community building.
In his article, Swapnil airs some complaints about ASTC that might sound familiar to STC members:
- Not enough effort to attract and retain members
- Not enough communication from the society to the members
- Not enough workshops and events, especially for people who aren’t located near major cities
Then he makes a suggestion: Instead of relying on the traditional committee structure — a structure he calls “outdated and archaic” — the organization should adopt an agile methodology like software development teams use.
Agile, or “just-in-time development,” is a set of processes designed to make software teams more flexible and able to respond quickly to the needs of their customers. Agile teams produce frequent, small software updates rather than big roll-outs.
Here’s how agile could help STC.
Part of STC’s challenge is (and has always been) that it’s run by volunteers. Volunteers who are smart, dedicated, and hardworking — but who are often pressed for time and limited in their knowledge and abilities.
STC’s health derives from the health of its communities — its special interest groups (SIGs) and local chapters. Yet even the most vibrant communities contend with issues like burnout and volunteer shortages.
Using agile methods, individual volunteers could sign on for small, short-term projects, like organizing a meetup or an unconference. They could do so without making a huge time commitment and with little risk of burnout.
Using agile methods, community leaders could plan those smaller projects on short notice — in response to perceived needs in the community (user requirements in agile parlance) or to opportunities as they arise (example: a tech comm celebrity is passing through town and is willing to give a workshop).
I’m not suggesting that STC disband its board of directors or dismantle its current leadership structure. In fact, STC has a Community Affairs committee that would be perfect for advising community leaders in agile best practices and for sharing success stories.
I’m suggesting that agile methods might revitalize communities and benefit members who right now feel like they’re being underserved.
What say you? Should STC go agile? Are any STC communities already using agile methods — overtly or otherwise — to ease the work of volunteers and to respond better to members’ needs?