»Lesson 10

Documentation Habits of High-Performance Teams

We’ve had the good fortune to support thousands of high-performance teams and observe how they document things. One things we’ve noticed is that they become really good at documenting the things they do again and again. These repeated processes vary by company and team, of course, but there are some processes that most team have in common. Here are some tips for documenting them well, so that you can navigate these recurring processes like a champion:
 

Hiring

Make the hiring process as transparent as possible. Ideally, you want everyone to understand what’s expected of them. This goes both ways: good documentation helps the candidate navigate the process, but it also helps the team navigate it effectively.
 

Document the candidate experience

Give every candidate the opportunity to shine. Even the most talented candidates can feel flustered and underperform if they show up in a suit and interview with a variety of people in jeans, flipflops, and tee shirts. The best way to put everyone on equal footing is by telling all potential hires what they need to know every step of the way. Some info you should include:
  • Who they’ll meet with, and these people’s roles
  • Whether they should be prepared for an exercise/test/or presentation
  • What to wear to interview
  • Any detail on how to get to the office and how to get inside
  • A contact number in case something goes wrong
  • A schedule for their time in office and your expectation about when they’ll be able to depart

Document what’s expected of the team

  • The candidate’s name and background
  • The role for which they’re being considered
  • The candidate’s schedule and/or how much time each employee has with the candidate
  • Any detail about when the candidate needs to depart, given other commitments
  • Ideally, areas that each interviewer should dig into with the candidate, (ie skills, cultural fit, raw intelligence, managerial experience, if applicable)
 

Onboarding

Don’t recreate the wheel every time you bring a new person on board. The best teams create a repeatable process for getting new members up to speed. Create a Tettra page that links out to all the other relevant pages. Consider building a schedule for that person’s first week. At the very least, give them guidance about who they should meet with, formally or informally, as well as basic guidance about how each of these people overlap with their role. You can improve your onboarding documentation over time by asking each new hire to critique what you’re written and pinpoint anything that’s unclear.
 

One-on-ones

Teams use many different formats for 1:1s, and that’s certainly fine. One thing that’s not fine, however, is saying you’ll do something and then failing to do it. This hold true when you’re the manager or the direct report. Failing to keep your word is one of the fastest ways to erode trust and accountability on your team. No matter how your team handles 1:1 meetings, find a way to document the action items that come out of them. You can use a category that’s private and accessible only to you or to you and your manager/report. Or keep a running draft page in Tettra that you never publish. You can add notes to this page every week, so that you can see everything in one place. If you do have a preferred format for 1:1s, clarify that when you document your team’s operating system.
 

Weekly/monthly Kickoffs and Recaps

If your team does planning on a regular basis, make sure you’re capturing those plans in Tettra, so that people can more easily review. This also helps to foster a sense of accountability, since you can review the goals you set and then accomplished at the end of the week or month. Track who’s taking ownership over what by making an inline mention of that person on your Tettra page. You can also use our new Google Docs and GitHub integrations to make a reference from your page to the project plan or GitHub epic.

Your assignment

Pick a template for one of these repetitive process, and edit the template to match how your team handles the process. For instance, if you choose the "Interview Guide and Materials", update it to reflect your address and other relevant details. Then, pick a role you have open currently, and use the template to build a page that documents the process for that role. Share it with others on the hiring committee/interview roster, and ask them for feedback. Bonus points if you share this with an actual candidate!