Documentation

Write it down and share it.

Information is power. When you write down information and share it your are sharing that power. When you document and share details of decisions, plans, results and other aspects of organization activities you are creating transparency for collective oversight and understanding for cooperation. Common important documents include:

  • Organization's mission, goals and objectives.

  • By-laws and policies.

  • A map of the activities and responsibilities within normal operations.

  • Project plans and progress information.

  • Contracts for persons with special responsibilities.

  • Employee manuals.

  • Committee terms of references.

  • Contacts: internal and external.

  • Budgets.

  • History and contextual information.

  • Frequently asked questions.

  • Minutes from meetings.

Documents are useful for referencing between collaborating parties and for informing people taking on new responsibilities. Without shared documentation people are always dependent on asking someone, creating hierarchy, delays and potential misunderstandings. Keep your documentation up-to-date and ensure everyone who wants or needs certain documents gets a copy. Empower the librarian types in your organization who have a passion for organizing, filing and labelling. Have a decent photocopier and give away binders for people to keep their documents in. Ideally keep copies of documents on-line linked from your organizations web site.

Recommended Resources: Google Docs, Exploring the World of Wikis


Write with clarity, brevity and structure.

Documentation is only useful if people read it and can find the information they need. Eight pages of dense paragraphs describing discussion from a meeting is generally not helpful. A point form list of facts, decisions, actions items and pending questions is useful. Three years of chronological policy decisions is frustrating to search. A collection of active policy decisions organized by theme and/or relevancy to roles in the organization is easy and sensible to browse. Digital documents are most easily searched on the web.

Recommended Resources: Plain Language guide