Why Is Documentation Important?

The most advanced remote teams bet on documentation.

In this post, we will cover a couple of reasons why documentation is helpful for organizations of any size 👇


Let's go.

#1: Documentation Democratizes Knowledge 📒

Bottlenecks are the bane of operational excellence.

Here is a real example: Only one person in the organization knows how to do X. They are the subject-matter expert (SME).

Everything comes to a stand-still, if the SME is out-of-office or doesn't have the capacity to do the work.

Documentation unbundles subject-matter expertise (knowledge) from the subject-matter expert (person). This reduces the risk of an operational bottleneck and the rest of the organization gets access to the knowledge.

#2: Documentation Builds Healthy Habits 💪

Changing culture takes time.

It is not enough to present a strategic initiative to the team and hope that it gets done. Cultural change is done through repetition over time. Repetition builds habits. New habits create a new cultural norm.

Documentation is a new habit that can be established at an organization. In order to document knowledge, you need 2 parties to change their habits:

  1. Subject-matter experts: SMEs need to write their knowledge into the documentation.
  2. Audience: The audience needs to read the knowledge from the documentation.

Build healthy habits over time.

#3: Documentation Reduces Risk 🚑

Organizations have various risks.

Two examples are:

  • Talent risk = an SME leaves the organization
  • Execution risk = an employee doesn't execute according to the standard operating procedures (SOPs)

Both of those risks can be mitigated by documenting procedural knowledge (i.e. SOPs).

An SME leaves for a competitor but their subject-matter expertise is documented in a central spot ✅

A new team member does a task for the first time but they can reference the SOPs in the documentation to go through the correct sequence ✅

#4: Documentation Accelerates Decision Making 🧭

"Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything." - Chris Sacca

The success of an organization is frequently decided by the quality of its execution. In order to execute, the leadership needs to decide the correct course of action.

Organizations can document high-level knowledge to help with decision making:

  • ⛳️ Goals = where to?
  • 💜 Values = why?

Leaders can cross-reference goals and values and see if the discussed initiative is aligned. If yes, go ahead. If not, don't do it.

#5: Documentation Enables Single-Player Mode 🍄

The basic principle of remote leadership is to "enable the team and get out of their way".

Remote-first organizations benefit from global talent. If your team is spread across multiple time zones you will eventually have to work asynchronously by default. There's nothing worse than an individual contributor wanting to get work done but being blocked (e.g. doesn't know SOPs; doesn't have access to the location of documents; etc.).

Documentation enables your team to get work done on their own schedule.

#6: Documentation Frees Up Time 🗓

"Create once. Distribute forever." - Ross Simmonds

Documentation is a vehicle for your knowledge. It has maximum reach (1:n) while requiring the least effort after it has been created (async consumption).


Want to Learn More About Remote?

Check our email-based course The 80/20 of Remote Team Leadership where we teach how to set up scalable documentation for your remote-first team 👇

If you have any additional questions you can: