I'm going to continue yesterday's post with something I've taken from Andrew S. Grove's High Output Management: Grove says that a large part of his day is spent gathering information. He says he spends a large amount of his day gathering information. While face-to-face details are essential because it's more valuable if the information is timely, he also receives information in reports. One of the reasons for this is to provide a safety net so that no information is left out. But there is another crucial reason: the process of writing the report is a means of self-discipline training. The process of writing a report requires you to organise your thoughts logically. You can overlook some omissions if you are explaining verbally, but a written record will remain forever, so you need to explain logically.
I call this process "one-person brainstorming". Since I graduated from high school, whenever I was at a crossroads in my life, I always wrote a diary, a blog or a "five lines of what I did today and how I felt about it". This writing helps me to visualise my actions and to take the next step logically. When I cycled around Australia, which I've written about many times on this blog, I also kept a daily diary. I think it was when I was doing my PhD at Oxford that I really saw the benefits of writing in concrete terms. I am often asked, "When did you start writing your PhD thesis?". I think people ask this because many PhD students do, or think they should, the process of first studying theory, then experimenting and investigating, and finally writing a PhD thesis. If you follow this assumption, you will not write your thesis in the first year of your PhD. What I did was start writing my thesis from day one. Of course, because I started writing when I didn't know what I was doing, much of what I wrote went to waste. However, because I had to put my thoughts together in a logical way when I was writing the seemingly useless text, I was committing critical thinking more rigorously than if I had just been reading or thinking about the paper. Partly because of this, I wrote my PhD thesis in about two and a half years and took my oral examination 999 days after starting my PhD at Oxford. I think this is early even for Oxford, where it usually takes four years or even longer to complete a PhD. (Having said that, one of my colleagues, Algore's right-hand person, completed her PhD thesis before I did.)
At su-re.co, we always have three types of reports to write.
Minutes: for internal meetings, but especially for external meetings, to gather information.
Today's plans and impressions: what you will do today as a step towards your big goal and how you feel about having done it. In particular, how I felt, which I think is essential to understand how other team members feel now that we work 100% remotely.
Blogging: This is also useful to understand what each employee is interested in since we started working remotely.
As I mentioned above, these three types of reports can help members absorb information from each other, but I think they carry more weight as a means of self-discipline training. A new member of staff who is asked to write the minutes may not be able to do so logically at first, but once they get used to it, they can follow a template and summarise what was discussed concisely and straightforwardly. Likewise, by working with a decision on what to do today, they can choose to do things in a logical and goal-oriented way. Of course, I read through these reports, but even if no one reads them, the process by which they are produced is more than worthwhile.