Documentation is more than the documents itself or the systems that your documents are stored in.
Let me introduce you to what I call the Dynamic Documentation method.
Dynamic Documentation is a powerful method that connects the tangible documents to part of a larger process and much larger picture.
The steps of the Dynamic Documentation process consist of the following:
- Storing and Maintaining
- Leading and Innovating
Step 1: Capturing
Capturing is the step of getting the information in or on somewhere. This could mean getting information out of someone’s head and onto paper through an interview, taking notes in a meeting or at a conference, or pulling information out of a tool or technology. The point is that you need the information in front of you in some form or another to start the Dynamic Documentation process.
Dynamic Documentation does not mean capturing everything. Capturing demands discernment. That is, deciding or weeding out what needs to be taken into your life or not.
Step 2: Structuring
Many people understand how to capture information, but they don’t know what to do once they have it. Or they can’t move the information into anything of value. Structuring is the ability to “do something” with the information you have captured through either creating a document, redesigning or rehoming information, or giving definition to groups of documentation or information.
The most common example of dynamic structuring in the work world – and absolutely the opportunity that is missed the most – is with meeting note practices. We often use meeting notes to regurgitate what the attendees said in the meeting in chronological order. Conversations, however, rarely follow a perfectly logical pattern, and it is only human nature for your employees to talk in disjointed thoughts and in circles. To make effective meeting notes, you need to examine all the relevant points discussed and then document the points in logical categories, highlighting new ideas, new information, action items, decisions made, and decisions yet to be made.
Step 3: Presenting
It’s a common misconception that documentation doesn’t need to be readable or engaging. After all, it isn’t for external customers usually and it isn’t for “fun”—so why bother? It is no wonder organizations face so much trouble in getting engagement on their documentation practices. They forget people like things that are 1) nice to read and 2) fun to read. If your documents are boring to read, your people are far more likely to let their minds wander to the Facebook or Instagram accounts—which, by the way, have a lot cooler presentation than most documents in offices.
Documentation is not about perfection. That is true. But you do need to put the effort into making your documentation engaging. Dynamic Documentation demands:
- Effective use of language to communicate your messages clearly (technical writing).
- Engaging visual composition through formatting, graphics, diagrams and color (Visualization).
Step 4: Communicating
The value of your documentation is only realized when it is disseminated among stakeholders: so spread the word! You might argue that communication is not what documentation is for, but communication is a critical step in the process. Communication ensures your message is getting out to your stakeholders, not sitting in a file no one reads.
Step 5: Storing & Leveraging
Storing is simply having a place to put things. It is the art and practice of having a well-designed system or repository with rules to put your documents. Maintaining is about reviewing your things to make sure they are in right spot and having a cycle for looking at your documents and ensuring they are stored in the right spot with the right supporting data too. These practices may require technology, but the tools don’t need to be complicated. Storing & Leveraging is about covering off a few basics, including: searchability and retrieval, accountability, audit, and continual review, and monitoring your employees and consultants.
Step 6: Leading & Innovating
Leading & Innovating is about using documentation practices to drive decisions making and develop better solutions for your organizations. It is leadership in a non-traditional sense. Dynamic Documentation is about being a “doer-leader” who arms companies to move forward and drive momentum through clarity. This is also about looking to the future with new practices and uses of documentation for the next century including automation and engaging in a changing business landscape and workforce.
Looking for more information on what I call “Dynamic Documentation”? I’d love to talk to you. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.