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Document what you do

October 6, 2008

In my current role I’m 100% completely accountable for each and every action that I take. You may think that I’m being a little melodramatic and talking myself up a bit but in emergency management, incorrect decisions or worse yet, indecisiveness can literally mean the difference between life and death. It is crucial that every action is recorded. This is essential if a decision or series of actions will need to be investigated but can also be a very useful tool for general day to day operations. It means that my decisions are available when I’m not there, can serve as a foundation for future ones or assist in avoiding in the mistakes of our past.

If this documenting is effective in emergency management and other safety critical environments why would it be less effective in other areas? Why should it apply at the tactical level and not at the organisational level?

Truth is – It isn’t and it doesn’t. It’s just a culture change.

At a safety forum a few years ago a speaker said, “gone is the age of information, welcome to the age of accountability”. This means that we are now fully responsible for the results of our actions, as well as our inactions. This also means not just those that take place today but even those for future generations of workers. I’m not talking about generations as in our kids and their kids. I’m talking organisational generations that occur every seven to eight years (The typical worker goes through around 5 career changes between the age of 18 and 55) If the lessons that we learned are to last the lifetime of the organisation, we need a robust method or passing them on to the next wave of workers.

When I look at a training needs for any type of business the first thing that I look at is their documentation. Does little or no documentation signal doom for a training program? No but it is a fair indicator. Those business who fail to formalise the documentation of their corporate collective tend to be the ones that are less adaptive, use hastily thrown together training programs and do most things simply because that’s the way they have always been done.

Documenting your practices sets standards. Without benchmarks we cannot measure and without measurement, improvement is coincidental. In addition it;

  • Records corporate knowledge
  • Establishes best practice
  • Promotes conformity
  • Disseminates company stance

I’ve separated standards because they speak for themselves and I also have a couple of older posts on the topic.

Over the next few posts I’ll touch on each of these and discuss their implication in a training environment.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2008 7:14 pm

    Documentation is always something left as the last task to do by many when it should be the first thing you do. It is a great way for you to reference back to what you did on a particlar task or project, or it can be used for other team members in the future.

    Great site!

  2. November 30, 2008 7:29 am

    That’s a very good point regarding documentation as being the starting point.

    Most of the documentation processes I have observed tend to be ‘reactive’ which usually means the results had to be significant enough to warrant documenting the results. This leaves a lot of supporting information being lost which may not be significant individually, but as a trend is meaningful to the organisation.

    Thanks Training Blog, you’ve already got me thinking about ways to improve my own documentation procedures.

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