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We already know how to do our jobs.
Why do we need documentation?

Documentation is the equivalent of having the rules of the game. While business is not a game, the concept of looking at documentation in this light does have analogous application.

You are playing basketball with an ever-changing team. Some people have been at it a long time, and know all the ins and outs of the game. Others are new, and have special talents to bring. Still others have never held a basketball, and have yet to learn exactly how the game is played. One of the old-timers offers, helpfully, “See that hoop? The idea is to get the ball into the hoop. Oh, and you have to bounce it in between, and try to keep the other team from getting the ball or making the shots.” A lot is lost in this transmission of this information. The basic idea is conveyed, but not how you actually play the game, or even what the rules are. With many teammates being helpful to the new players, a lot of information is given, and a lot of information is missing. When you have played basketball for a long time, there is information you take for granted that would be very helpful to the new person. 

If this same new person had detailed rules to study and refer to while practicing, and diagrams of potential plays, with information about under what conditions those plays might be useful, and what skills they should know to call on, in play, from each teammate, it would make a big difference in their understanding of the complexities and subtleties of basketball the first day on the court. 

This documentation of basketball serves another purpose. The remaining players are less likely to be called away from the game to explain, point out problems, and teach the newcomers the game. They have more time to be productive playing basketball. 

Documentation creates a standard against which people can measure their performance, and see immediately what is going well, and what needs more work. There is less room for misinformation – everyone is working off identical sets of rules. When the structure is set, the players are then free to master the skills needed, and create new plays to stretch their game. People may argue about whether or not a player was traveling with the ball - however, no one is arguing about what traveling is. Traveling is clearly defined, clearly documented in the rules.

The same is true in the business world. Having a set structure of standards (rules) written down in simple clear language frees the employees up to do their jobs. To learn it right the first time (and if you are the new person, to know you are getting the correct information is a relief), to have something tangible to ask informed questions from, to have a point of reference when disagreement or confusion arises over how to do the work. As in the analogy to traveling with the ball, no one will argue or be confused about what the work is. With good documentation, a quick check will reveal the way each employee is supposed to complete the work. The focus is back on the work, and performing the work in an efficient and professional manner. 

Good documentation helps bring clarity to our human propensity for messy communication. How many times are we positive we are being completely clear and succinct in our communication, only to discover later that the other person was lacking a key piece of information we assumed they knew, because it was a piece of information we could not conceive they might not know? The first time I took a class in a language other than my native one, I assumed it would be a simple matter. I would simply have to memorize all the words that corresponded to the same words in my native language. Moreover, oddly enough, no one set me straight because the instructor assumed the class would know languages are rooted deeply in culture, and differ vastly in content. I did not know not all languages have the same concepts behind the words, or had words or phrases whose meaning did not translate into my native language. I thought I would learn the French equivalent of “A bad apple” word for word, and it would mean the same in both languages. In France, if you said someone was a “bad apple” no one would know what you were talking about. 

These are the kinds of assumptions that are made when we know a subject thoroughly. It never occurred to my French instructor that her young students would not have this information, or that they would spend months on their own making up literal, but incorrect, translations for their term papers. 

Good documentation eradicates assumptions. As you can see from the example above, literally following verbal instructions does not always mean the worker is performing the correct procedures.

Good documentation sets the groundwork, eliminates wasted time and energy, and keeps the focus on the work being performed. It will speed up performance, create a structure by which to measure that performance, and provide clarity and dependable reference points company-wide.

MCTS has tailored all documents to fit most company needs, and to match ISO requirements.

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