I mentioned the importance of ‘document culture’ in a previous post – and how it was a safeguard for me as evidence of what actually happened regarding my resignation from Omnis Education – so I wanted to share more about it.
It didn’t take me much convincing to decide to implement it at Omnis Education, with the thought that “if it is good enough for Amazon, it is good enough for us”.
What Is Document Culture?
For us, it meant producing a meeting document for almost every single meeting we had; sometimes it was a high-level 1-page summary, sometimes it was a 6-10-page document with all the details needed for a decision or more lengthy update.
The document is shared with all meeting participants at the beginning of every meeting (not sent in advance – see the links above as to why this doesn’t actually work well), attendees had reading time (anything from 10 to 30 minutes for a 60-minute meeting), and then we would skim through each section asking if anyone needed clarification or had questions.
It was a highly effective and efficient way of holding meetings in a startup.
What Did We Find?
It was one of the best things I implemented for a fully remote company. Why?
Producing a meeting document for almost every meeting means…
- You are forced to carefully and consciously think about the purpose of the meeting, what you want to achieve, what information is needed to achieve it and how to keep it succinct so you don’t end up with a 30-page document that requires an hour+ of meeting time to read it.
- Giving everyone time to read the document at the beginning of the meeting means it’s fresh in everyone’s minds and everyone starts from the same place/page.
- It takes the pressure off the introverted/shy/less confident hosts/presenters/leaders because very little (no) presenting or speaking is involved unless questions are asked.
- It can be a less confrontational way of discussing challenging topics or making difficult decisions because the information is (should be) laid out in a clear and well-structured manner and everyone has time to read, absorb and – hopefully – gather themselves a little before diving in.
- It can take the heat and emotion out of communicating difficult things to people, especially for those who struggle to communicate ‘neutrally’.
- There’s a record of every meeting which is great for referencing, record-keeping and evidence!
If you run or work in a remote startup, I highly recommend considering implementing a document culture…when you do it well, it yields nothing but massive benefits. We now use it at Mission Equality and it keeps out meetings effective and impactful.