What do all of the most effective async-first companies have in common? Super strong documentation practices.
Companies like GitLab and Doist empower their teams to be autonomous, efficient, productive, and inclusive by prioritizing writing skills and good documentation habits.
Why Is Documentation So Important?
Clear, consistent, updated documentation is critical to async work because it ensures that information is easily accessible. This not only keeps projects moving seamlessly, but also promotes autonomy and inclusion across the organization. Rather than keeping Information siloed or restricted—forcing colleagues to rely on each other’s time and availability—anyone who needs the information can access it directly.
With strong documentation habits, then, your team can:
- Save time by reducing the need to ask other people for information.
- Improve the quality of work produced by making processes more consistent.
- Increase equity and inclusion by making information accessible to everyone, regardless of location.
- Maintain business continuity in the face of any major changes to personnel or the business structure.
How Can You Improve Your Documentation Practices?
Improving documentation practices takes commitment from everyone involved. Try a multifaceted approach where you implement some tiny changes at the same time that you roll out a big experiment that challenges your old ways of working.
Here are some examples of tiny actions you and your team can implement immediately that will improve documentation habits:
- Send a summary of your thoughts prior to a meeting you aren’t attending.
- Write brief bullet points via a communication platform after an important decision has been made and tag key parties.
- Provide a two-paragraph overview or context for a report, project, or program at the beginning of a longer document.
- Contribute asynchronously, in writing, to a brainstorm on a virtual whiteboard prior to a team meeting.
- Use a meeting transcription tool like Otter.ai to automatically document sync meetings.
- Share your screen and document minutes via a cloud-based document during sync meetings.
- Collect updates from team leaders each week and share them as an internal blog post or message.
Having one single source of information, or Single Source of Truth, is the most effective way to streamline documentation. It’s a one-stop-shop for all answers to any questions, and it prevents one of the most common issues regarding knowledge management: having too much information stored in different places, often resulting in conflicting or duplicative information.
Not sure how to get started? Sign up for the Hybrid Team Success Toolkit to get access to a SSoT template, as well as 7 other templates for effective virtual team processes.
What Tools Are Best?
At Workplaceless, we know that every team is different. You may already have a tool that can help you with clear documentation or you might need to consider adopting a new one.
For the purposes of maintaining consistent documentation that is easy to update, look for cloud-based tools that allow for comments, notifications, version tracking, searching, and organization.
At Workplaceless, we use ClickUp for our Single Source of Truth (SSoT) because we also use it for project management and other purposes. If you’re looking to adopt a new tool to bolster your documentation practices, you can also explore tools like Almanac, Notion, and Confluence.
Of course, building effective documentation isn’t a one-and-done event. It takes commitment not just to writing the documentation, but also to reading it and using it. Build your team’s buy-in and effectiveness by:
- Setting explicit expectations
- Modeling desired behaviors
- Holding people accountable
- Constantly referring to documentation
- Making the information easy to access
- Making documentation fun
You can also build commitment by investing in resources such as our Leadplaceless program, which will help your entire team align on the importance of documentation and build habits that empower autonomous, async-first work.
Whether you choose to start with tiny actions or a big experiment, the key is to start right away. The longer you wait to improve documentation, the harder it will be to enact lasting change in your team’s habits.