Our agency wasn’t founded with one thousand KBs, but we were founded with a culture of documentation.
I knew that in order to achieve my goals, I couldn’t do it alone. I would need to build a team.
And they would need to execute as well, or better than I could.
The benefits of a knowledge base culture are crazy
I get it – you’re busy building a business.
Trying to keep your head above water.
But chances are you don’t know how dramatically helpful documentation can be on your journey.
I’ve never worked in a business with internal documentation until I started the content agency, and the same is true for everyone I’ve polled in our organization.
So it can be done – actually it’s the status quo.
But if you’ve never worked in a company with a culture of documentation – here’s what you should know.
Documenting stuff isn’t just for agencies.
It’s for every type of business – and every business function.
When you pull it off, crazy things start happening.
You enable the people you hire to do something as well, or better than you can.
Junior level team members start to punch above their weight.
You’re finally able to hold your team accountable to executing their responsibilities in a specific way, every time.
You’ll find yourself spending less time repeating repeating yourself.
It takes your team less time to ramp up new team members.
Your knowledge transfer doesn’t walk out of the door with attrition, and new team members have a base to build upon.
Your workload gets more and more async as the need for real-time collaboration decreases.
Your team spends less time organizing work in meetings and more time working.
You start to see increases in efficiency by keeping people unblocked with clear, specific instructions.
Lead from the front
This is the first, and most important step. Everyone on your team is busy, if you don’t make time to create documentation they won’t either. Not at the beginning.
You also need to figure out your documentation standards – the level of quality that you’re going to hold your team accountable to. You’ll only develop this by digging in, and learning what it’s like to actually create good documentation.
Expect to create the first 30 – 50 docs before you can roll out creation responsibilities to your team.
Start Your Knowledge Base Somewhere
There are a bunch of different approaches on where to start.
Here are some ideas to get your juices flowing.
Something everyone seems to hear differently
The answer to questions you’re sick of answering
The activity that is most frequently done incorrectly
The thing that has the worst impact if messed up
The thing you hate doing the most
The thing you never remember
EIN, account #s, corporate info
The thing that’s long overdue
Culture & values
Start using your knowledge base first
Now it’s time to get your team consuming the initial push of docs you’ve created.
Whenever anyone on the team asks a question that’s answered in the KB, link them to the KB instead of answering the question directly.
Whenever someone asks a question, makes a mistake, or improves on something that’s been documented – use that as an opportunity to make your documentation better.
We heard Notion was slow, and we didn’t need the PM level functionality because we’re already in-love with Airtable.
Can’t recommend Slite enough.
Looping in your team
You’re finally ready to start asking your team to contribute documentation.
There’s one last step.
You need to create a doc, on how to create docs.
This doc needs to include:
Internal linking requirements
Linking to required external resources
Organizational standards (where do you put the KB?)
Sharing and security policies
Alright, now you’re ready.
Start with holding your direct reports accountable.
Once they’ve gotten their reps in and built a habit, you’re ready to start rolling it out to their direct reports. The rest of the people in your organization can’t be held accountable until your direct reports are held accountable.
Scope documentation into your team’s workload
You’re almost there – but you’re not there yet. Your team actually needs to start creating documentation. And the only way that will happen is if you scope it into their weekly / monthly / quarterly goals.
If you give your team a full plate AND documentation – guess what won’t get done.
Keeping your knowledge base up to date
If your team is successful, and you do build a culture of documentation – congrats!
You earned more work.
Your documentation needs to be kept up to date.
Especially in the beginning.
Your team might be creating documentation – but it won’t be as good as it could be. There’s going to be organization and naming conventions issues. People will forget internal links, and internal links will change.
Every three to six months we map out which major processes we’d like to refresh, and map these to our bi-monthly sprints.
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