Dec 05 2011

Picking up the pieces: poor planning undermining quality

Category: RantsFinancial Translator @ 12:29 pm

My job has always been about picking up the pieces. As a project manager, I was always thrown those projects that other project managers had messed up. Tom will get that back on track. I thrived on the challenge. In most cases it was simply that the project manager couldn’t handle the stress or didn’t have the necessary technical skills.

When I moved into translation my reputation seemed to follow me. A client isn’t happy? Send it over to Tom and he’ll sort it out. And given reasonable time and space it was easy to comply. Feedback was generally glowing. That was 5 years ago. Now things are radically different. The number of projects I’m being asked to save has skyrocketed but the timeline is being compressed. It has to be fixed now. I often wonder whether in many instances the problem mightn’t have been avoided by giving the translator a little more time.

In my world there is a major difference between the occasional unforeseen disaster requiring an urgent response and poor planning. If you can’t plan properly you’re heading for the rocks no matter what your field. In translation, however, the effect is exponential. It is like asking your auditors to audit your accounts today and sign-off by close of business. Are they likely to i) agree or ii) do a good job? Probably no on both counts. I know from personal experience that agencies are terrified of upsetting clients but they need to take responsibility for bringing down expectations; for giving translators the time they need to make clients happy. In the case of smaller projects we’re often talking about an extra day or half-day. It somehow seems doable.

Tags: translation quality