Document with a Purpose to Increase Team Efficiency
Is your project plan bloated? Does your team allocation spreadsheet make you dizzy just to look at it? At the same time, do your colleagues request more data, constantly ask you what the milestones are, and what’s the status?
Don’t get me wrong, as a project manager, I secretly love creating a beautiful project plan with linked resources, forecasted work efforts, calculated dependencies, and a Gantt chart to follow. A beautiful project plan, some would go so far as to say, is a ‘work of art.’
The problem – unnecessarily large, detailed documents can result in a clouded message. Your readers don’t get it. No one refers to it. No one updates it. You personally are still the source of the information and thus back to square one.
Your audience needs to see information relevant to them quickly and easily – or you will lose them. Documents are a communication tool to disseminate information quickly and clearly. Documents need to be reliable–a single source of truth. Each document needs a clear objective and a clear audience. If your documents don’t have those attributes, your team is likely misaligned on expectations, milestones, and next steps. Misalignment decreases productivity and increases project risk.
To get the power out of your documents, try these 5 steps to help document with a purpose.
Document Intervention: 5 Steps to Documenting with a Purpose
1. What’s the Point? In one sentence, describe why you are using this document. Make sure that message is clear to your audience.
2. Who Cares? Determine your core audience. Know who exactly needs the information and when they need the information.
3. Is it clear what I want them to do? Put yourself in their shoes. Why should they listen? Now what? Ensure your audience knows what to do with the information provided.
4. What’s the big picture? Sequence your project documents so they flow and work together. Watch out for cross-over and duplication. Ensure you have a single source of truth.
5. Trim the waste! Keep it simple. Reduce the number of documents you manage and reduce the non-necessary information from within each document. It saves time and reduces confusion.
Simpler is better. Make a right-sized document for the task at hand. Don’t assume a larger or a more detailed project plan is the answer to your communication woes. In some cases, your 400-line project plan should really be a five-milestone critical path plan for better impact.
The point: Good documentation can make your team more successful by increasing alignment and ultimately efficiency. Take the time to ensure you document with a purpose.