I have joined a mobile gaming company and over time I have seen ways that the workflow can be improved. I have proposed solutions in my reports and meetings to the head of the company (our localization lead does not get to make the changes) about the workflow, terminology management, and style guides that will allow for better results in localizing our content and speeding processes for projects. However, little action has been taken towards implementing any of these suggestions. I’m thinking there may be better ways to show data and improve presentations to be heard when speaking up about evangelization of localization best practices. How can I better reach the company lead to see the importance? Do you believe we have to cut our losses sometimes and advocate elsewhere?
Not Feeling Heard
Dear Not Feeling Heard,
Your letter reminds me of conversations I’ve had with people I work with on standards. I remember a federally certified court interpreter talking about their experiences trying to advocate with judges for working conditions that would allow them to adequately perform in their role. This interpreter was often ignored, and they ended up having to go as far as submitting an ASTM international standard to corroborate their request for the implementation of best practices. That is to say, you’re not alone in feeling ignored. Here’s some ideas for how you can help the company lead to learn about the importance of the solutions you’d like to implement to improve the quality and efficiency of localization and production.
First, your letter references solutions you have proposed. I’d suggest building upon the foundations you have built with your first reports by making any future reports actionable. What you’re proposing may sound like too big of a change, and your company lead may not be sure where to start. So, list out the first steps you’d like to follow to begin implementing your solution, and follow up with the lead and ask for next steps each time you make a new report. On the other hand, you could also just start building out the resources and infrastructure you’d like to implement, then show your work as you reach important milestones. If you notice a recurring issue in translation, start with an item in a style guide that addresses that issue, then report when the recurring issue has been resolved, along with the positive impacts that have resulted from addressing the recurring issue, such as mistakes and rework avoided, time savings, and greater accuracy of the content. As you write reports and create the infrastructure for terminology and workflow management, share the well-researched resources upon which you are basing your work. Some general standards that serve as great references for translation and localization work in general include ASTM F2575-23 Standard Practice for Language Translation and ISO 11669 Translation projects – General guidance. Sharing the resources upon which you are basing your work is a great way to ensure that your colleagues are learning with and from you.
Another piece of advice that I would give is that you will probably need to keep repeating yourself for a while to get the solutions you have proposed implemented, especially if the changes you are proposing are big. Nedra Tawwab, a therapist who has published a book on and often posts about boundaries, teaches that having to repeat ourselves is normal in communication. In a recent Instagram post, Tawwab states: “Repeating yourself is a healthy part of communication. People need to hear the same things to understand how important something is to you. People need reminders when you’re asking them to change. Saying something once is often not enough.” The fact that your localization lead does not get to make changes to production is telling. Perhaps you’re working in a small team, which may mean that the head of your company needs some help letting go of production level decisions to be able to focus upon administration, too. Demonstrating yourself as capable of creating plans and executing on solutions may help the company lead to let go.
That people sometimes don’t take an individual subject matter expert’s word for it is unfortunate, but that’s also why standards are being written. It’s much harder to dismiss the recommendations of groups of subject matter experts who have worked together over years to write an international standard than an individual person’s recommendations. You closed your letter asking if sometimes we need to concentrate on advocating elsewhere when our recommendations aren’t being heard. I’d like to take the opportunity to invite you to get involved in the drafting and maintenance of international standards, where your solutions-mindset is welcome. For instance, right now, within ISO a standard called “Basic principles and methodology for Stylistic Guidelines in Localization” is being drafted, and we’d love to have your help. If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out directly to me at email@example.com.