Missing link in Organization Success — Documentation Culture

Prateek Sharma
3 min readApr 14, 2024

When a new member joins the organization, whether at an entry level or a high-ranking position, or when stakeholders seek updates, or investors inquire, or auditors assess progress, documentation becomes crucial. Each party requires documentation regarding departments, processes, systems, or policies. In the fast-paced environment of organizations, there’s little time to onboard new members or fulfill the needs of various stakeholders. Consequently, comprehending the organization becomes a daunting task for these individuals, leading to delays in project initiation or result delivery. The pivotal aspect here is documentation, which often prolongs these timelines.

Often, we encounter situations where new employees or specific requests arise for documentation, yet the provided documents are insufficient, typically consisting of brochures, corporate materials, slide decks, or meeting notes. However, many organizations lack a centralized repository for comprehensive documentation, detailing teams, actors, and their synergies. This absence becomes a critical impediment to implementing systems or processes, hindering organizational progress. Understanding the root cause is crucial. In this article, I’ll delve into why many organizations lack a documentation culture, emphasizing the need for top-down enforcement. I’ll explore the reasons behind this culture gap and highlight companies with successful documentation practices, distinguishing them from those without such a culture.

Establishing a documentation culture begins from leadership, whether it’s an entrepreneur initiating a venture or top management steering the organization. Typically, the vision or instructions are conveyed verbally, often due to time constraints. However, relying solely on verbal communication fosters a lack of documentation culture from the outset. As these verbal practices trickle down, the absence of documented guidance persists. To counter this, leadership must transition from verbal directives to written formats, even if it’s in bullet points or notes. This sets the foundation for a documentation culture to permeate throughout the organization. While time constraints may pose challenges, providing basic points in written form initiates the documentation process effectively.

Management could delegate this task by hiring an executive to draft bullet points or notes, which can then be passed on to subordinates for elaboration and dissemination. To address time constraints, management could enlist the services of a skilled content writer. However, the effectiveness of this approach depends on the hired individual’s understanding of the organization’s business terminology. Without familiarity with the relevant terminology, conveying management directives accurately becomes challenging. Therefore, the hired executive must possess a basic grasp of management and industry-specific terminology to ensure effective communication within the organization.

One significant reason for the absence of a documentation culture is fear among individuals. They worry that documentation will expose their knowledge and technical skills, revealing their expertise and areas of work. This reluctance stems from a desire to safeguard their position and avoid job insecurity. Additionally, some harbor envy and withhold information from colleagues, fearing repercussions if they were to leave their job. This protective mindset inhibits the development of a documentation culture.

However, a counterargument to those who fear losing their territory due to documentation is this: in a collaborative environment, sharing knowledge benefits everyone. Research consistently shows that sharing knowledge leads to mutual gains without diminishing individual standing. While there may be isolated cases where withholding information seems prudent, in most instances, sharing fosters a win-win scenario. As individuals begin to share, they discover the advantages of documentation.

Another significant reason companies lack a documentation culture is their lack of technical expertise in building and managing documentation systems. However, I offer a rebuttal: modern technology has simplified this process immensely. You don’t need a complex system to start. Basic tools like Office 365 or Google Workspace suffice. Starting small, perhaps with a simple text file, allows for gradual progression to more sophisticated systems. Utilizing platforms like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox for central storage facilitates sharing and collaboration. Thus, documentation culture can commence with modest beginnings and expand over time.

The common excuse of lacking time or bandwidth for documentation is vague. In reality, the effort required for documentation is minimal compared to daily work. Moreover, having documentation for entire departments can free up resources and increase focus on productive tasks. This reduces redundancy and indirectly enhances organizational growth and success.

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Prateek Sharma

A lifelong learner with keen interest in tech automation, finance & economics.