First off, let’s get one idea clear: Your organization needs documentation – even if you’re using Agile Methodology for your development.
It’s a fallacy that using Agile means you don’t write documentation. Agile seeks to minimize waste, yes. But it’s misguided to eliminate documentation altogether. Rather, you should be creating records of what you’ve done—decisions made, processes implemented, outcomes, etc.—and creating documents that will be used.
Because there’s value to having this information in a fixed format and readily available to your team.
The way you get this documentation, with the least effort? By making it part of your development process. Instead of functioning as a separate activity, when documentation becomes part of the process, it becomes an essential part of development, and your entire team gains an interest in creating and maintaining it.
So how do you get to that point?
Start at the Beginning
Start where it all starts—with your Leadership team. From the very beginning, Leadership should put together documentation that establishes the goals and deliverables of a project, and that also confirms Leadership is in agreement concerning them. This way, all the talk from meetings that gets forgotten or misremembered—including things like deliverables—is written down so there’s no uncertainty later.
Documenting deliverables is essential. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen business leaders hold lengthy planning meetings, one after another, to discuss a project and then, in the end, have no defined deliverables. And when there’s no deliverable from management, employees working on the project have no idea what’s expected of them.
Documentation at this stage can help align Leadership and the employees to the vision for the project.
Not Part of Agile? Not so!
I can hear all the Agile nay-sayers right now telling themselves, “Agile is all about change! Writing things down takes time away from development—just to create a document that’s outdated the moment it’s written! Besides, people don’t even use documentation!”
Yes, things do change. But if your documents are outdated, you’re not documenting correctly—you haven’t baked documentation into your overall process and made it part of your deliverable to your customer.
Take the Kick-Off meeting, for example. With a document that shows what was decided in the meeting concerning your Statement of Work and shows what was communicated to your entire team, when you reach your Lessons Learned, you have a ready tool to refer to for evaluating how well you and the customer did to stay on target and meet your goals. So, in the end, you won’t have to rely on memories and contradicting recollection—which can lead to conflict, CYA, and hurt feelings.
Once you change the perception of documentation’s role in your project, generating, updating, and referring to it becomes simply part of your process. The resulting stronger documentation will make your operational goals clear. And it will help you and your managers improve your operations little by little—in an agile fashion.
How Much Does Inconsistency Cost You?
Any time something isn’t documented, you run the serious risk of things going wrong as your employees, to get that something done, fill the knowledge gap themselves.
You know, make something up.
And you can’t fault them for it. They’re trying to get the job done with what they have.
Which in this case is nothing.
Every employee requires—and deserves—clear expectations that are communicated to them directly and in a way that cannot be misconstrued. Your customers deserve a consistent product or experience.
Look at McDonald’s. One of the main reasons they became a national and then global fast-food juggernaut is because their customers recognized and came to love the consistency—not just from visit to visit, but from store to store anywhere. They knew exactly what they would get every time. And McDonald’s reaped the commercial benefits of it—which was no accident. They achieved hat level of consistency from an exceptionally thorough and rigorous (and now renowned) set of standardized operating procedures implemented scrupulously in every store.
How much in does inconsistency cost you? Not just in sales lost due to inconsistent customer experience, but in wasted time? Even if you’re a services provider with custom projects, straying from your model for development and delivery can get expensive.
Documentation creates consistency. By documenting it all, you have a tool to refer to and measure by, a tool you can use throughout the process to track back and ensure you’re doing what you decided—or, from a customer’s perspective, what you said you’d do.
Essential to Change Management
This is actually pretty simple: Without documentation, there is no change management.
For all the reasons discussed above, focused, ongoing documentation provides everyone in your organization the same information while setting clear expectations. It’s one of your most important assets as you navigate change because it helps see where you are—which you have to know before you can figure out how to get where you want to be.
This is where Plus Delta 314 is different. We believe in driving positive change—which means your documentation has to include change management. You can have all the meetings and facilitated discussions you want, but if what comes out of them isn’t written down, you have nothing to drive transformation and promote user adoption within your organization.
Start documenting. Start ongoing reviews, audits, and updates to the documents. Once your employees begin to own the documentation, not only will it become better, it will become an asset to your organization—an asset that will make it easier for you to hire. Easier for you to train. Easier for you to hold people accountable.
Easier for you to one day sell your business.
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