My company is trying to close out the project we are working on. This is due to the fact that we lost the contract to perform the work. There are a number of personnel still working on the project. If they are not busy on other tasks, they are supposed to be working on locating, organizing, and storing our documentation. I assigned our least busy developer to work full time on this task. I told him to go find out what needs to be done, and do it.

In retrospect, this may not have been the best direction to give. But I did not want to get bogged down in the details as I have other priorities to attend to. There is an individual who is assigned to the documentation task. And there are many people working on the task. But after working for a while, we had a meeting where it became clear to me that this task was in a state of chaos.

I directed a few key members to come meet me in my office. At this follow-on meeting, I declared that we needed to finalize and document a folder structure in which all our application team documents needed to go. The person who was in charge of the task said it was their responsibility to determine what needed to be done. I concurred. However I also pointed out that it was evident there was not method to the madness of the task. Later that afternoon, the task leader put together a document demonstrating a folder structure for organizing documents for each team. In addition, the actual goals of the task we finally articulated in writing.

Sometimes you need to sit down, figure out what you need to do, and document the plan. This is required when the task at hand requires more than one person, and absolutely needed when it involves more than one team. One would think that tasks such as document collection and organization are nothing like rocket science. But without a plan, and more importantly a documented plan, you have all the ingredients for utter chaos in the workplace. Why must we have to relearn these lessons year after year?