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Knowledge Management

Documentation Inside Your Organization

Everyone knows what it is like to start a new job and then spend the first few weeks learning the processes and procedures of becoming an effective worker in their new environment. Individuals new to any organization spend hours training and talking to others to learn the proper methods of accomplishing specific tasks related to their job. Unfortunately it’s only after spending an unwieldy amount of time that an employee realizes the documentation they have been using hasn’t been updated in “x” number of years or the employee hears from someone, “that was the old way of doing things.” It’s a situation almost everyone has faced.

Organizational Knowledge Management can be abstracted into three basic categories of documentation: properly preparing documentation through content; managing documentation with processes and checkups; and mitigating lost knowledge by properly collecting documentation.

What you save matters. If you save information in a way that doesn’t make sense, it’s going to take much longer for people to understand. The content you include in your documentation doesn’t have to be broad enough for a child to read, but it should make complete sense for the audience you are writing to.

At the broadest level, the content of your documentation should include the context of the process you are going through, a step-by-step walk through of the process, the inputs and outputs, and a list of people to contact inside the organization in case any details were missed or any clarification is necessary.

Documentation can be written once and never touched again, or it can be updated daily. It really depends on the needs of your organization and the type of work your employees are completing. One of the best ways to organize documentation and keep it relevant is to have new employees run through a single file of old documentation as they are asked to complete work and then fill in the gaps of the old documentation as they go. This ensures there is one source of documentation and that source is mostly complete. If everyone writes their own version of the documentation and different versions are floating around, the truth is that no one will want to sift through 15 versions of the same-ish file to find a single piece of information that was missing from the first document.

The best way to keep information up to date and available for everyone is to make all the files available through a file share site with some type of version control included. This setup makes file checkups and reviews easier to manage, and it keeps all the documents and changes readily available.

Documentation for processes can be reviewed as often or as little as needed. “If its not broken, don’t fix it” is usually a good policy to follow when updating docs/processes, but if you find things moving too slow or producing incorrect outcomes repeatedly, at least the documentation can be a potential place to discover the root of your problems.

People are the greatest asset of any organization, and managing what they know is vitally important to keeping knowledge and information available to those who need it. Having employees document the roles and tasks of their job can greatly help with managing knowledge within the organization.

Forcing people to document their job may sound intimidating initially, but making it a job requirement for everyone will ease the potential problems that may arise when people want to hide knowledge from others to ensure job security.

Creating documentation can help organizations and teams avoid repetitive questions from employees and can help every employee understand their role within the organization better. Documentation makes job transitions for current employees (and onboarding for new employees) a much simpler process.

Although the perceived benefits of documentation appear small at first, documentation is a long term process that pays itself off in time.

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