To document… Part 4 (Post 30)

As it’s the last day of #blogjune, I thought I should wrap things up re the documentation workshops.

At the last documentation workshop we finished assigning authorship, which achieved a lot towards getting others at the table other than the original few. We then extended this exercise by identifying which documents could possibly be prepared concurrently across the teams. This was really worthwhile as their was recognition that even more people needed to be a part of the process. We finished the session there.

So my initial issues were:
– the process of documentation is more important than delivery
– the process of documentation is controlled by 2-3 people, while teams await instruction
– the documentation is written to meet the needs of the authors, not the end readers who need instruction
– the process of documentation is mind-numbing slow, with at least 2 workshops and revisions per piece of documentation
– there is an expectation there will be about 30 pieces of documentation. To be completed before handover to delivery can begin
– the owners are very possessive of the documentation

I was hoping the process would:
– share ownership of the documentation
– reduce the amount of documentation required
– reduce the time to produce the documentation
– get us moving towards delivery while still ensuring people receive the instruction they require.

To date, the changes are:
– we have shared the ownership of both the documents and the process of creation
– we have identified documents that can be prepared concurrently, to try to address the time required

To address the amount of documentation my Manager colleague and I will be looking at the ‘templates’ to either reduce, or introduce shorter versions. We will also look at how we can start working towards delivery without all the documentation needing to be completed first.

It is an ongoing negotiation with the teams, but I do feel there is a step forward. I also know that the next ‘review workshop’ now has 8 at the table, not 3. The 5 that are now included are very happy to be there.

It’s one small step, but it’s in the right direction.

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To document… Part 3 (Post 20)

The third workshop on documentation was held today… Where I presented a merger of the two document maps produced the other day. The first question they dealt with was…. Is anything missing?

OMG, to the list of 37 documents I swear we added another 10. However I found a couple of things interesting:
1) I was told I was completely missing a stream of documentation. Considering they compiled the original list, I had missed nothing – but I bit my tongue and we added the documents.
2) I used a technique I learnt recently in a facilitation course – even if you think they are done – wait quietly & count to 10. A lot of people cannot handle silence, especially facilitators that are ‘extroverts’ like me. I have found that it works, and it worked today. The silence provides some people necessary time to think, and also means that perhaps the question is not fully answered. In this case it lead to another 10 minutes of talk. There were a LOT of introverts in the room, in fact I am sure I am the only extrovert. To do the ‘count to 10’ thing I do need to mentally count to 10 and hold myself back to do it.

We then moved on to labelling each document with ‘authorship’ – which meant not just who writes it, but who should be involved in the reviews. Harking back to the first workshop, they were very possessive about who wrote what, and who owned what. For this exercise I told them I wasn’t interested at this point in who ‘owns’ anything – just who should be involved.

We only got about a third through this and will continue it on Monday, but already there are more names (and skill sets) involved than previously. YAY!!!!

The next step will be to group the documents by dependencies. The aim is that by having more people at the table for one document, the dependent documents can start being prepared at roughly the same time – removing the need for 3-4 weeks of private iteration before anyone outside the original group gets to see anything.

It is an ongoing saga, but one that seems to be heading the right direction – though slower than I hoped. We will get there.

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To document… Part 2 (Post 18)

We had our second session on documentation today. As I was not having a good day (brain addled by vertigo from moment of waking), I needed to rethink how the session would run – to remove the work from me, and ensure the group stepped up.

So with a bit of prep time, the group was presented with two lots of butchers paper on 2 walls, with 2 lots of post-it’s. One post-it to one piece of documentation.

The group was split into 2 – my selection to mix the skill sets and agendas – and they were asked to put the documentation into sequence, including where possible grouping of like documents, and dependencies.

It was interesting to see how things panned out. Both groups’ sheets look different – but there really wasn’t great variance between the two. Having said that, I’ll be typing this up tomorrow so I’ll get to test that statement.

I didn’t ask for overlaps in content, but it was obvious from the conversations they were drawing some conclusions by themselves. I will draw this out on Friday.

What was interesting was the pieces of work they thought were missing. There was content or ‘decisions’ they felt wasn’t clarified. In asking about this, the interesting part is MOST of what they wanted they have – just not in a format they are used to. Talking afterwards with a colleague of mine, who is a manager within this environment and is a participant of the sessions, he agreed – they have an inability to recognise information spread in format. The information has to appear the way they expect it, or they don’t digest it. (Secondly, it is very nice to be validated!!! I respect this colleague immensely so I was very glad he thought I was totally on track.)

We both agreed it would be valuable to pull these clarifications out to a template they recognise, followed by a bit of explanation of where the clarification came from. For me, this is a huge learning. To me the decisions were there – I was having difficulty understand what they were missing. Now I know. Pulling it together will be next week’s task.

The third session is on Friday, and we will focus on overlaps, redundancies and concurrent authorship. It should be a doozie!!!!

So far, so good. I just hope my brain is not so addled on Friday 🙂

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To document or not (Post 11)

I facilitated a brainstorming session at work today, on the documentation needed for a project.

Before I go any further I should say I am quite experienced in project management, and have developed a couple of project management systems for use in two different programs. The documentation we were discussing today was really focused on the ‘technical’ information, rather than the ‘project’.

For this particular project I will be using generalities to protect the innocent and the guilty, and will not mention what the project is…..but I am sure others have experienced similar situations.

Our current issues are:
– the process of documentation is more important than delivery
– the process of documentation is controlled by 2-3 people, while teams await instruction
– the documentation is written to meet the needs of the authors, not the end readers who need instruction
– the process of documentation is mind-numbing slow, with at least 2 workshops and revisions per piece of documentation
– there is an expectation there will be about 30 pieces of documentation. To be completed before handover to delivery can begin
– the owners are very possessive of the documentation

So, how to deal with this….

The first session, today, focussed on a couple of questions:
– what documentation do we have to date, and for whom was it written?
– what documentation is needed, by whom will it be written, and for whom will it be written.

This identified 30 types of documentation, of which 11 are completed or in draft. Using the current methodology we have a LONG way to go.

The next session will start with mapping the order of production and dependencies, and hopefully overlaps in content.

The third session will focus on rationalisation – what documents can be combined? What documents can be produced concurrently? Who should be at the table – just the usual authors? Or should the readers be there to highlight the gaps upfront?

I am hoping this will:
– share ownership of the documentation
– reduce the amount of documentation required
– reduce the time to produce the documentation
– get us moving towards delivery while still ensuring people receive the instruction they require.

I’ll let you know how this goes…. I have my fingers crossed it will help break the legacy of document possessiveness and overkill.

(On a separate note, if you type documentation incorrectly – autocorrect makes it do use tattoos !

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Deadline angst

Alas I didn’t post yesterday, as part of the #blogeverydayofjune challenge. However I’m hoping that as I started this blog on Thursday but am posting on Sunday it will count towards Saturday. I shall also aim for a second post today, so that at least I’m keeping up with 30 posts in 30 days.

I wanted to share this. This excerpt is from the primary school newsletter – the weekly letter from the Principal:

In last week’s newsletter I wrote that things are “moving along extremely well on all aspects of our building project”. With 35+ years of experience in education, I should have known better than to make such a statement as in the space of a week it has all gone pear shaped and expected timelines have been potentially blown out of the water. All was progressing well until the roofer left the job site and will not be returning. The ramifications for our building project are huge as roofing plumbers are very difficult to find due to the vast amount of work currently occurring at schools all over Australia. A great deal more roofing needs to occur to join the basketball stadium and arts precinct and our staff room, office and administration area has also ground to halt as no further works can take place until the roof goes on. All in all we have gone from chocolates to boiled lollies very quickly and the larger ramifications are huge.

Projects have a way of moving off target. Though I haven’t mentioned it anywhere, this is what I do. Projects. Library projects to be specific. And this made me smile in complete understanding. In most projects I have been involved in, planning is the most crucial stage – nutting out ever aspect of a project and attempting through risk management to identify the potential threats to timeframes and delivery.

But – you cannot predict everything. This delay to building at the primary school particularly resonates, as one of my first large projects was personal – building our house with MotH as owner-builder. Working to a deadline, the building process was cruising along, till we got to the roof. We had a tight timeframe – 7mths maximum to build the house if we wanted to be in before Kid2 arrived. Roofing time arrived – no roofing plumber. With a husband as a ‘tradie’, we were of course using ‘mates & family’ to build the house. The roofing plumber was a second cousin. Having booked the cousin’s time in advance – the time came and he was nowhere  to be found.

After numerous phone calls, we located him. He was locked up – in jail.

Now I can’t really remember why, but it was something reasonably minor – unpaid fines or something such. But, as the young man in question had avoided payment and the associated summons, the police had indeed come to take him away. For three weeks. In building terms this could be seen as a relatively small delay – except that I could not similarly delay the expansion of my waistline!

Ten years on, it seems trivial, but I do remember our angst at the time. Our house was completed, and we moved in – 11 days after Kid2 was born. It was still a remarkable achievement, to have built our house in 7.5 months from the land settlement date. It was also an incredible learning experience, and while I now do projects professionally I have personally vowed never to build again unless we have the finances to stay put until the new abode is completed. And that won’t happen – unless we win the lottery!