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Why should we even bother about documenting decisions?

Why should we even bother about documenting decisions?

Last week we took a look at why it’s difficult to document decisions. But why should we actually care? What’s done is done isn’t it?

Well partially. If we would live in a world where things are decided once and then execute themselves by themselves that would be the case but in reality it’s a little different. Let’s start by looking at how decisions are documented.

Traditionally we make decisions somewhere between emails and meetings and if we are really lucky someone in the meeting writes down the meeting minutes and then maybe sends them out per email or uploads them. And that’s where all meeting minutes live happily ever after never to see the light of day again.

Another way decisions are documented is even more fragmented and disconnected. Decisions sometimes are solely made through emails. Remember when you sent your boss a proposal and he replied ‘OK’, you got a decision right there and it’s documented in your email inbox or as we like to call it the place where decisions go to die.

Let’s add some optimism into this rather dark status report of how we document decisions. There are actually some companies that document decisions in some tool that is in ‘the cloud’ and share the decisions with other colleagues. This tool might even be connected to for example internal chat tools or a project management tools. However the connection only reaches so far.

In order to understand how we actually need to track decisions, we need to understand why we actually want to document them. Here’s the first obvious rabbit hole, we won’t dive deep enough today. But especially institutions and different committees have people participating from different organizations and it is essential to make past decisions logically and easily accessible for them. Moreover there might be other, legal reasons why institutions need to archive their decisions but that’s the bespoken rabbit hole that we’ll allow your imagination to take a deep dive into.

Aside from specifics of the public sector there are other reasons why documenting decisions is important. We might want to document a decision to show transparency and let the team know what’s going on, another reason why we would want to track a decision is that we want to collaborate with our colleagues on it. In order to foster collaboration we need to follow a specific process. We cannot just document a decision as factum, we need to take a step back and share the problem with our colleagues and only after careful collaboration and insight sharing can we propose a solution to the issue. This way we need to also have a way to look back at what has been discussed, who provided which input, what was proposed and what was decided. And in order to do this, you guessed right, we need to document decisions.

It’s up for companies to find innovative solutions that make it easy and hassle free to document decisions and this can only happen if this solution is a place where the decision is actually made as well and not just an arbitrary place to store it. How do you document decisions in your company?