There is an unexpected habit that sets great managers apart: cultivating a team culture of process documentation.
Top-performing teams write down their processes and procedures. They document best practices for completing common tasks. They create clear instructions for finding answers to common questions quickly.
Creating great process documentation will help you boost your team's productivity.
Process documentation is a set of documents that explains how your team works. It includes:
Although process documentation is a key part of any team's infrastructure, it is often overlooked or given low priority.
Inexperienced managers consider documenting processes a waste of time. After all, the time a team spends updating documentation is time they could be spending developing product features, interacting with customers, or closing deals. But when you do it right, process documentation actually speeds your team up instead of slowing it down.
Building a culture of documentation keeps your team organized, efficient, and productive.
When things aren't written down, your most valuable intellectual property (processes, ideas, context) lives in the heads your employees.
This is a huge risk. When employees leave -- as some will inevitably do -- your team loses that knowledge for good. In addition, when your ways of doing things are clearly written down, you can onboard new employees much more easily. All of the materials you need to train them are up-to-date and ready.
Process documentation pay dividends long after onboarding. When you collect essential knowledge in a centralized place, your team can access answers to questions quickly and without disrupting others.
Additionally, team members can quickly share knowledge in ways that encourage alignment, foster collaboration, and accelerate decision-making.
This allows everyone to increase the time they spend on focused, deep work.
In addition to reducing risk and training time, building and maintaining a culture of process documentation on your team also saves you money.
How much money? A lot, as it turns out. A survey of 1,043 knowledge workers found that professionals spend 25% of their working time searching for documents and information that should be easily accessible.
“We’re all spending more time asking and answering questions digitally,” Arvind Jain, co-founder and CEO of Glean told TechRepublic. “This survey highlights how frustrating and time consuming employees find the process of searching for answers and information that should be easily accessible. All aspects of work, from onboarding to material creation to customer support can be made more efficient by having prior knowledge instantly available for reference.”
If you don't invest in process documentation, you are wasting huge amounts of money on labor. It's that simple.
Good process documentation also yields huge returns by ensuring that projects get completed on schedule. It also saves your business money through reduced operational costs like overtime pay or staff training sessions.
Every manager wants their team to be as efficient as possible.
Meeting deadlines and producing quality work are paramount. So taking time to write down how you do things and what you are learning might seem like a waste of time. Darren Murph understands this tension. As Head of Remote at Gitlab, he has spent years encouraging his colleagues to appreciate the importance of a handbook-first approach to documentation in the context of a high-growth technology company.
"While it feels skippable — inefficient, even — the outsized benefits of intentionally writing down and organizing process, culture, and solutions are staggering. Conversely, avoiding structured documentation is the best way to instill a low-level sense of chaos and confusion that hampers growth across the board."
If you think you don't have time for documentation, you've got it wrong.
Process documentation plays a crucial role in increasing efficiency. It ensures that everyone on the team has a clear understanding of the tasks at hand and what needs to be done. It helps you prevent the disorganization and confusion that saps team momentum.
Documentation is well worth the investment.
For a team to be productive, everyone needs to have tools and knowledge they need to do their job at a high level so they can make decisions about their work on their own.
As you might expect, process documentation plays a big role in this, providing employees with information on processes and clarity on expectations. In fact, creating great documentation is one of the pillars of productive companies. "By forming a culture of creating company-wide archivable, searchable documentation for important information, we are creating effective historical decision-making for individuals, teams, and departments," James Stanier, Michael Li, and Jesse Anderson pointed out in the Harvard Business Review.
"Encouraging a culture of writing proposals and designs in the open where others can collaborate and comment greatly increases the ability for others to read, understand, and contribute to the overall direction of the company, increasing employee morale and ownership."
Creating great process documentation boosts your team's productivity.
So how can you cultivate a culture of documentation on your team? Here are a few tips: