Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Document or Not To Document

As Lean Coffee TO's unofficial "documenter", I found our discussion on documentation very enlightening.

There seemed to be two opposing viewpoints -- oddly enough, from two physical sides of the room.

My bullet point summary follows:
  • Why are people afraid of documentation?
    • Makes it "real"
    • Not enough time
  • Documentation makes delegation possible
  • Must be kept up to date
    • Cost: overhead for every document you make
    • Sometimes you'll write something and never look at it again
  • Can documentation limit creativity? (depends on the type)
  • Very important for remote teams
  • Also important for new hires
  • Organizing documentation is very difficult
  • It should grow organically
  • Document according to risk level
    • Surgeons that document their process kill less people
  • Helps "be kind to your future self"
  • Example: Captain Picard and his log (had to be there to get this one -- awesome example :)
  • People have many ways of learning -- writing helps think about problems differently
  • Our brains are not designed for storage
  • Lean aspect: Wait until there's real pain before documenting

And my own thoughts on the matter:
  • I personally hate writing documentation, but...
  • Our memories are more like goldfish than we think -- we forget stuff quick
  • I document Lean Coffee out of necessity -- It's the only way I can justify the time invested to get some long-term learning that I can refer back to
  • Documentation leads to Automation (and automation is very efficient/lean)
  • Templates -- I only mentioned this briefly, but think it's ultra-important:
    • Saves massive amounts of time with certain processes
    • Again, leads to automation -- with a good, up-to-date template, I can create a proposal in 10 minutes that might have otherwise taken 3 hours
  • You need to keep stuff in one place (or at least link the multiple sources together)
    • Everything to do with my company is either in Google Docs or our project management system, and they both link to each other
    • On the personal side of things, my girlfriend and I keep all important info in shared Google Docs and Google Calendars
  • I've found that numbered lists or bullet points are better than paragraphs and sentences (since that's how we tend to think)
  • Finally, I think that organizing documentation is far more important than simply creating it
    • Perhaps you'd use some of your previous notes if they were actually somewhere you could find them :)

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