Management Lessons


If you would create something, you must be something. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ● A Jason Caldarera website

Documentation not a bad word

Documentation can be one the most effective tools you have.  It’s also most likely the one you never make time for.  You’re not being fair to yourself or your team.   There are so many reasons managers choose not to document; the most popular are negativity and laziness. 

Many people see documentation as a negative.  They have a belief if something warrants documentation it must be a bad thing.  Strike this notion now!  Documentation is a tool, a teaching tool if used properly.  Many times we find ourselves following up with our people on multiple occasions regarding the same behavior, or lack thereof.  Our feedback is much more effective if we can show them the various times you’ve spoken to them concerning the issue.  It makes it a more serious conversation when someone realizes they’ve had the same conversation any number of times.  Not necessarily more serious in a negative way.  To be fair, hasn’t someone spoken to you regarding a matter and you didn’t see the severity of the situation?  You didn’t recall they’d spoken to you at least 4 times about the same thing?  You didn’t share their frustration because it just didn’t seem like a big deal to you?  By documenting we’re being fair to our people.  They can begin to understand the frustration associated with repetitive conversations.  I’ve found many people see this documentation as a necessary reminder in the course to change behaviors. 

Then there are those of us who are just too lazy to document.  All I can say is shame on us.  I was one of these people for a long time.  I would run myself in circles following up with my reports, revisiting matters, retraining and never seeming to get anywhere.  It was not fun for me.  I was never able to get past the initial conversations because I was having them everyday.  Then one day I committed to making the time.  The initial documentation was the worst, but once you get it down, the rest are so much easier.  I would simply talk to a report and make notes on a piece of paper.  I would let the report read those notes and agree on accuracy and a course of action.  Later I would type it up and have them sign it, agreeing on the wording, etc.  Then subsequent conversations involved simply adding a date and time at the bottom, along with their signature.  Once I’d shown the same sheet of paper to one of my mangers 4 times, she took notice.  She didn’t even realize what a problem her action was.  She quickly moved toward correcting the behavior.  To get to this point, I had to make the commitment to document. 

Now this goes beyond being a manager of people.  You can use this tool being a manager of life, finance, etc.  I had a habit I wanted to break (late night chocolate milk binges).  I would document each time I went to the fridge.  Initially, it didn’t change.  But once I saw the pattern of my behavior, I was able to limit my trips (limit not eliminate).  I also am taking this course of action with my debit card spending.  I am the worst at not recording my spending. 

Documentation helps me see the pattern.


Filed under: Business, Feedback, Follow-Up, Management Lesson, Management Training

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August 2007
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