Documentation Procrastination: It could hit you where it hurts.

Has this happened to you? You hire a fabulous new project manager. They come in, make changes, establish new systems and tools that improve operational processes and generally make life better for you the manager, and for the team as a whole. Before long, they are embedded in the company, and you simply can’t imagine work life without them.

One year later, you get the unexpected news: your star player is moving on.

After the initial grieving process, panic sets in. Your PM, who know every new process and inside out, hasn’t documented a single thing. When they leave, a world of knowledge is about to leave with them.

Managers often find themselves in this situation. We are reliant on great people, and as their impact grows, so does our dependency on their presence.

If and when they leave, we fly into firefighting mode, desperately trying to extract  the information in their heads to ensure their replacement can ramp up quickly and effectively. Of course, with one foot out of the door, our star player must resort to quickly jotting down as much as they can think of before their final exit. The result: documents that are little more than incomplete bits of information, giving the next PM up to the plate more questions than answers. This is called reactive documentation.

Being Proactive

How do we prevent this scenario? After all, we have no foreknowledge that an employee is going to leave. The answer is proactive role documentation: documenting all new processes as they develop.

Now, in the ideal world, we would simply tell our team to begin documenting all of their tasks and processes.  But for every hour of work, there can be a good half hour of documentation. Unless we plan to extend the work day, it’s time our hard-working employees simply don’t have.

Hiring a technical writer is often done as a last resort, because they are viewed as an expense, rather than an investment. But factor in the would-be time and cost of ramping up a new hire with insufficient tools, and it becomes evident that enlisting someone to document what your people do saves both time and money in the long run.

A few benefits of the tech writer:

  • they are able to take an objective overview of the material
  • they know how to cause minimal disruption when interviewing and job shadowing
  • they are focused on the documentation project, ensuring your employees stay focused on their projects
  • they know how to asks the right questions and get to the important stuff

In the end, people will come and go (no matter how awesome of a boss you are). Ensuring their processes stay put when they leave will make your future operations a whole lot easier.

2 Replies to “Documentation Procrastination: It could hit you where it hurts.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *