Stijn in Random 2 minutes

Questions to consider when writing policies, processes or other documents

The ability to write things down is something very human, it’s one of the things that separates us from animals. Writing forces you to structure your thinking and approach a subject from different angles. It is also one of the ways in which humans can scale: when you document an approach, you allow others to follow your approach and apply it for themselves.

In an attempt to do just that, here are the questions I’m considering when writing new documentation. In no particular order:

###What is the goal?

What do I actually want to achieve? This section should convince others the document is worth reading. An additional advantage of explaining your goal is that you’re giving everyone a beacon they can work towards (and thus, making your goal a reality!)

###Who is the audience? Think hard on how to approach the audience. Use their language and make sure to answer the question: “what’s in it for me?”

###How will we reach the goal? What will we do to achieve our objective? I like to think about this myself first, before looking for answers elsewhere (see point below), an idea I picked up from “how to read a book”. This forces me to think about potential solutions critically and assess strengths and weaknesses as well as completeness of the solution.

###Are there any reference frameworks I can leverage? Only very seldom we’re trying to do something so new, there aren’t any reference frameworks yet.. In all other cases, reference frameworks allow you to build on the work of others. Personally, I find they often help me see the whole picture and often provide surprising insight into the relative importance of sub-areas.

###How is my part connected with the rest of the organisation? You’re never on an island. Check what you’re doing and find out where you’re interacting with others. Then go ask those people what information they can deliver or what they’ll do with the information you’ll provide for them. Determine if they can deliver what you need and if you can provide what they need. Then agree on how and when the information will be exchanged.

###How will I measure what I want to achieve (KPI’s)? What gets measured, gets improved. Think very hard on what you want measured, because once people realise a number is important, they will make it go up (using the shortest available route). It’s very easy to improve the wrong thing.