There is a difference. This is a (short) post/rant that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Something reminded me of it last week but the real driver for it was something I saw earlier this month that I was so disgusted at that I had to get up and leave the room.
In normal circumstances documentation and I get along. I consider myself a fairly decent communicator so if I can see a positive communication outcome from producing some kind of documentation I’ll usually be able to pull something together that gets the message across. Even documentation that is designed to help crystallize your own thinking (communicate to yourself) isn’t a problem.
However – where I draw the line is documentation whose sole job isn’t to communicate but rather to ensure that a decision can’t be pinned on you.
Effective organisations distribute decision making to the leaf nodes and healthy participants take that responsibility on and use their own judgement to figure out the scope of their decision making authority. Sometimes however you come across people who see their job as ferrying documents from their team to their managers so that their managers make all of the decisions. That may be appropriate in some instances but if all you are doing is that and deferring all your decision making responsibility what value are you really adding?
So – if you are working in an organisation and you find yourself writing documentation to cover your arse instead of communicating then take a long hard look at yourself. Business is about (calculated) risk. You need to manage the risk that you take on and you don’t just do that by abdicating all responsibility to the next level of the organisation.
Use documentation to communicate, not to cover your arse.