This article will probably have both a Beloved by Clients lesson and a personal obsession of mine to keep everything clear, transparent, and written down. And the thing is, and I will dive into this a few paragraphs later, people tend to remember what they want to remember — or to adapt the reality to what’s more convenient. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s something all humans do, but that can cause a lot of problems in the workplace if no one really knows what is supposed to happen.
So imagine this scenario: your client asks you to have some sort of thing ready for October 21st, which is next Thursday. So you go ahead and ask the person in charge of that part of the process to have that ready by that date. And then October 21st comes, and you ask them to deliver it to you. But they say: “Oh you asked me to have that done by October 22nd! It’ll be ready tomorrow.” And you know you asked it for October 21st, but the conversation you had was in person, face to face, with no written evidence of anything. And then of course you’ll have to give explanations to your client, who will definitely be disappointed to not have what they expected, even when they asked for it a week in advance.
And how could this have been easily solved? With something written that reminded your employee when they should have it done by. Either an assignment in whatever software you use, a written doc explaining everything, or even a pink post-it on their computer. And that’s why today we’ll be deep diving into why you should introduce this strategy to your team, and how to start approaching it. So let’s jump right in, shall we?
Human nature messes up
Just as I said before, it’s a human thing to do to adapt reality towards our personal convenience. It’s not something we do on purpose, but it’s really something that just happens. Whenever we have a conversation with someone, any kind of conversation, we are probably just going to remember whatever mattered the most to us or whatever sounded most interesting to us. If we can’t quite remember some instruction someone gave to us, we probably are going to tweak it to fit better whatever it is we want to do. And that’s why it’s so important to have things so clearly written down that no one’s brain can argue something else was told. So first key point: write things down so there’s no room for debate — things are what they are written to be!
Don’t come on too strong
We don’t want to introduce the “writing everything down” strategy to our teams in a way that looks as creepy as people who record all their conversations. Of course, you won’t write down “March 24th, John told me he likes his coffee with two spoons of sugar.” And it’s a good thing that you avoid doing that. Write things down when it’s important that you continue remembering them, and when it’s important that everyone knows them just as they are. Not that John’s coffee is not important, it’s just instructions or deadlines are probably a higher priority.
Best practices for everything you write down
Now let’s picture this scenario: Your client tells you they need that thing by October 21st, and you actually take the time to write down to your employee the date. But then October 21st comes up and they say “what? I thought it was the other Thursday!” and you can’t believe what happened. But when you go to the document you realize you wrote “Due next Thursday”. So it was pretty clear to you that it was this Thursday, but it was not so clear for your employee, and now your client is again disappointed.
So basically what I mean to say is that it’s not just about writing things down, but also about writing them down in a clear way that makes sure every single person who reads it understands it. Clear and concise, no room for guessing. So even if something makes all the sense in the world to you, double-check by asking some of your colleagues and make sure it really makes all that sense.
Keep updating the process!
Once in a while, it may happen that, after a long time standing in the same place, we may get so used to it that we are unable to see the bigger picture. So just as with any other process, the writing one should be updated every now and then. Necessities change and with them their solutions. Perhaps new people come to your team so there has to be a more dynamic way of sharing information. Maybe the style you’ve been using starts to fail for some reason and you need to take a step back and find where it is that’s creating problems. And all this is fine! There are no everlasting solutions, and the best thing we can do is evolve and keep finding more creative solutions.
So basically the conclusion here is quite simple: writing things down helps efficiency and communication, but it is not something that should be taken so lightly. Since its complete goal is to make things easier, more comprehensible, and make sure everyone’s on the same page it’s really important that our teams find a way to make it work for everyone and not just the one person who wrote it down.