Document What Matters: Lean Best Practice for Process Documentation - Gillian von Runte


thank you so yeah actually I'm really

excited to be here today and yesterday

and to listen to some of the other talks

as well and get to learn more about what

you guys are doing and I'm definitely

not a technical writer so this is very

interesting for me to get that

perspective most of the clients and the

industries that I've worked don't really

have a lot of experience with this sort

of thing so it's very much today we're

going to be talking very much about what

my on-the-ground experiences were trying

to get documentation in practice in an

organization so a little bit about me

I'm a continuous improvement person

that's what I do I'm interested in Lean

Six Sigma customer experience a little

bit of agile and process design but also

product design and what's interesting to

me is how to get value so that's what

lean is all about is getting value so

making sure that we're doing our best to

get the the value out of the

interactions that we have with the

customer when they're using the product

or the service so that means I do a lot

of consulting and training I'll go into

an organization I'll try to get a loads

of people to be interested in these

concepts give them some practical tools

and hopefully get them to do that sort

of thing as part of their day-to-day

work that means I travel a lot I go from

loads of different locations I have

inside an organization or going from

organization to organization and a lot

of sharing best practice as well and the

way that I tend to interact with

documentation is very much around

documenting process ways of working for

teams and for customers so internally

and externally and how they interact

with our products and services so it's

very much understanding what

documentation is needed for people for

users when they're using a product or


so why am I here I'm not a document

writer I don't you know do this as part

of my normal thing well I'm here because

my clients love the results of

continuous improvement and lean they're

very happy about it but they really hate

documentation I'm sure this is not so

uncommon but a lot of the industries

that I work it's not part of the normal

way of working they don't have a lot of

documentation available and it's not

something that they usually use to

either service therefore their customers

or for anything else thank you so one

reason that they have not approached

this previously is that there's a little

bit of a learning curve if you've never

ever worked with documentation then of

course you need to learn how to do it

and that's something that can be very

challenging if you have no experience

with it and no technical writers

available there can also be time

constraints so if you're working on a

specific project or a piece of work

there will be a time constraint where

you know you have a certain amount of

time that you need to implement

something and especially if it's a new

area you're not going to want to try to

get involved with that and also

sometimes we're still getting buy-in so

if I'm coming into an organization and

they don't really understand lean or

they don't understand a certain way of

working that's better it's very early to

get them to start documenting it because

they don't understand it yet so some

typical excuses that I've heard when

I've tried to get people to document

we've never done it before we don't know

how I didn't know that I had to maybe

there's too much to confront so it's a

daunting task if you've got a large

organization or a service with loads of

features or product with loads of

features and they've never done any

documentation before it's a massive

undertaking especially if you've never

done it sometimes people try to put a

one-size-fits-all approach and that

clearly doesn't work if you've got some

things that need a lot of information a

lot of

and some things that are very simple you

can't standardize or put templates

something in this kind of way

unrealistic scale that's another one so

people want to try to you know solve

world hunger to do everything it

absolutely at once and it's unrealistic

to do it you have to break it down into

smaller increments and another one is oh

we have documents we just don't use them

and that's that that could be

heartbreaking but it's a bit annoying

and the reason for that is that it's out

of date right so they go through this

massive undertaking and they do all of

this documentation one client I worked

with it took them two years to document

all of their process and product and

service and then by the time they were

finished it was out of date right so

it's already not fit for purpose so if

you're in a situation like this of

course you're not going to want to put

your time and energy and effort into

maintaining Docs because why would you

if you're not using them so these are

the four points I want to get across

today four tips that I've thought where

as a principal we're very handy for

streamlining and applying lean to

working with documentation so firstly

eliminate the need if you don't need

that product or service if it's waste if

it's a feature that people aren't using

why bother documenting it get rid of it

take care of the problem at the source

show don't tell use visuals use videos

whatever you need to do to make it

engaging for people it's actually a lot

more effective target value so make sure

that you're actually targeting the

things that the interactions that have

the most value when you're prioritizing

what you want to document first and

finally make it normal or not at all so

if it's not part of the new normal way

of working and people are not using it

every day don't bother because it's only

going to go out of date okay so let's

talk a little bit limiting the need

obviously I mean the easiest way to do

it would be to make the process a

product or the time

the thing that you're trying to document

simpler sometimes it's not possible

right and simple as we talked about

yesterday can be subjective right but if

we're thinking about this what this

really means is if something is wasteful

or if there's an activity over there's a

feature that's not being used or is not

appreciated why go through the pain and

the effort of documenting it yeah why

are we going to build this extra layer

of process around in this extra layer of

documentation if it's not something that

the customer actually wants or the user

actually wants and to do this we need to

know what the user wants all right so

hopefully you've done some research

around that but if you don't know it's a

good time to start asking those

questions before you embark on this

experience of documenting everything

intuitive design is really important if

you have designed this intuitive and

this is very dependent on what you're

doing what products you have what

service you have then there's a lot less

to explain so either maybe you won't

need as much documentation or when

you're writing it it's gonna be much

easier to communicate and convey certain

ideas low impact errors so if you have a

service or a product that is when

something goes wrong there's low impact

on the customer there's low impact on

what's actually going to happen then the

risk of something you know they might be

able to figure it out right or maybe

you'll be easier to get them out of that

situation and find them that pathway

right so if you can make sure that when

you're working with that service you're

working together with the product

designers or the service designers to

make sure that that happens then you can

streamline that in your documentation

and make sure that it's clear what they

need to do next this is a really

important concept I think people forget

if we are repeating a task over and over

again then it's much easier for us to

remember what we need to do right so if

you have a feature or something that

someone is using repetitively or

consistently over and over again there's

going to be a lot less need for

explanation and clarification and

they'll be able to retain that

information on how to do that task or


that thing okay so high retire

repetition means that I remember I know

how to do something so that sounds great

right but how how do we do this well you

can look at risk so if you apply a risk

lens and look at what you're actually

offering to the user

where are the risk points where things

could actually go wrong so you don't

necessarily need to wait until you have

the data ideally you would do some

research or you'd you know do some

testing and you'd work out where the

actual issues are occurring but if you

don't have that you can apply a risk

lens and see if you can predict that and

try to beef up your documentation there

working backwards is really useful if

you want to understand how to simplify

what you're doing you can envision the

ideal and then work backwards what are

the steps that we need to take to make

that actually happen the five why's is

really really brilliant has anyone heard

of the five why's some of you it's

really simple it's basically like if

you're a child right you're asking why

over and over again and it can be very

irritating if you're trying to ask that

question about things that are going

wrong with your your product but you get

to some very interesting reasons why

things are actually happening so if

we're looking at you know at this

example if you just keep asking why

you're going to get to a lot of the

systemic things that are happening the

cultural issues the things that are

happening in the organization that are

going to create those issues with your

product or service and if you start

tackling those at the source then you

have a lot less need to explain clarify

everything this is an interesting one

show don't tell I think we kind of

appreciate this in principle and lean we

refer to this is on the ground

instructions obviously you don't need to

use this terminology but on the ground

instructions are put near the things you

put it near the service or the feature

that you're using visual is always


so it's visual documentation and

it's showing how it's done or how it's

not done so you either have a cautionary

one where its showing don't do it this

way or showing visually how it's done

now you can use this with videos you can

use this with diagrams there's many

different ways that you can do that and

I think we've all seen you know when you

go in a restaurant they have near that

the sinks in the restrooms there's a

little sign saying you know washing your

hands they're very visual we you know in

think we think we know how to wash our

hands right hopefully we all know how to

wash our hands but the images are going

to show you generally what they're

expecting from you yeah so this is an

interesting example of what on the

ground instructions can look like at the

if you go to the Monkey Forest in ubud

in Bali you'll see this sign as you

enter and it's just a list of commands

very bossy right and it's a lot of

information yeah it's a lot of

information to try to take in especially

if you're having a casual stroll into

the park right and what tends to happen

is people don't read it and then this

happens yeah because they didn't read

the instructions and you could you know

blame the user in this scenario and say

they didn't read the instructions but

realistically if you're not prioritizing

what are the key points what do I really

need to know yeah am I gonna stand there

and read all of this so the key points

are don't look to monkeys in the eye

apparently don't ever touch or grab the

monkeys and don't feed them now I find

all these three things I can probably

get through the park without being

attacked by monkeys right but I won't

know those three things because I'm

looking at this wall of text right so

it's prioritizing what information I

actually need to get through this


compare that to I've got some this

lovely image from Japan that I took

while I was there I don't remember which

city but um I don't read Japanese maybe

some of you do but I am pretty sure that

that means don't feed the pigeons yeah

so the other side is relying on my

knowledge of English

my patience and my time to stand there

and read the whole thing this one is

very clear very visual and I understand

immediately that I'm not supposed to

feed the pigeons and more off actually

more more than that the pigeon is making

an expression telling me that he's very

unhappy right so I'm empathizing with

the pigeon and I'm starting to

understand why it's not just a command

right so it's not do not feed the

pigeons it's look at this impact you're

going to have on this poor pigeon so

here's another great one that uses

empathy this is also from Japan and it's

a wonderful visual diagram that was

found in taxi and we basically have the

worst passenger ever here yeah he's

harassing the driver he's smoking

he's kicking the back of the seats then

again I don't need to know Japanese I

can look at this and I can it tells a

story so I understand also not just what

happens but also why I'm empathizing

with the driver so you notice they've

done the illustrations so that you're

seeing the face of the driver so you're

not just getting the information of

don't do this which can be very bossy I

mean we don't like to be told what to do

right what we're getting here also is

why look at the impact that you're

having on the driver

look at how they're feeling we're being

called to have empathy and by doing that

it makes us understand okay yeah that

that's a good thing I shouldn't do that

right so if anyone's traveled in Asia

you've probably seen this one it's

pretty simple so diagram not to use a

Western toilet like an Asian one that's

fine but this was greatly improved in

the airport in Kuala Lumpur I was really

impressed by this so this is visual


that is in the ladies toilets in Kuala

Lumpur and it takes something it's the

same idea right but it's presented in a

humorous and engaging way and you get a

little green check to indicate this is

something we want you to do it's not a

cautionary diagram this is something we

want you to do and it calls you to have

fun and to laugh and to feel a certain

way all right so it's not a command and

if we actually expand on this there's

other documentation there so don't wash

your feet in the sink but it's it's

presented as we care for your safety

yeah we care for your safety this is why

we don't want you to wash your feet in

the sink and they're showing what could

happen if you attempt to do that yeah so

again it's calling to the reasons why we

want to understand why we're being told

to do something

he's a my another I think this is

probably my favorite this is my favorite

on the ground instruction that I've ever

seen and I use this a lot in my training

but it's taking something that is people

might have some discomfort talking about

its presenting it in a humorous way and

it's using that to engage with people so

that they pay attention take it

seriously and actually do what you ask

them to do so um what one next so we

understand okay we want to make it

visual we want to make it engaging we

want to only document the things that

matter let's target value let's target

the interactions and the aspects of our

service that are making the most sense

for people that they're using most

frequently so document what matters

first I mean this is a nice principle to

have areas of risk we talked about

earlier this is a great place to start

if something is risky you probably want

to get that documented right if there's

a potential for something to go wrong

that's an area where we want to approach

customer interactions we're going to

talk about how to do that but you want

to look at where the customer

interactions are and prioritize those

and maybe the pain point so if there's

something that's going wrong frequently

this is an opportunity to use

documentation to address that issue also

common mistakes so things where you know

customers are our users are making the

same kind of mistake over and over again

this is a good opportunity to understand

what's going on either with fixing the

process or changing the documentation

and it's important to talk about moments

of truth moments of truth was a concept

brought forward by young Carlson he was

the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines in the

80s and the airlines weren't doing very

well and what they found actually is

that the value the value for them of

their company and of their product and

service was not in the fleet of the

airlines or the training of the staff or

anything like this

it was in the actual interactions that

people were having and it completely

changed the model of how they approached

what they did so what they talked about

with the moments of truth is to take a

three step approach identify the

customer surface so where is the

customer being interacting with you or

with your product select the critical

areas so where the areas that actually

matter not all of it is going to be the

same there will be some interactions

that are very unemotional and

unimportant and take the ones that

matter and improve those and in probably

in most of your cases you're going to be

improving them by adjusting how it's

described or explained so I've got here

some real instructions that were next to

the lifts in one of the buildings I used

to work and I hated them I really hated

them and there were so many problems

with those lifts people were constantly

queuing and giving up and complaining

they would be full things were going

wrong and it really irritated me because

it was saying to select the destination

floor first of all I know how to push a

button okay so don't tell me as a

customer that I don't know how to push a

button um also move what am i sedentary

like do I need to do some exercise why

am I being told to move and the journey

don't get me started on that the journey

am I going on a voyage I'm just going to

floor for some of the wording or just

didn't make any sense and there was a

lot of text right who's gonna actually

read all of this especially if they're

in a rush going to work so um if we

looked at it really and we've mapped out

what the the process really looked like

i choosing the floor maybe the machines

telling me the lift is full or it's

going into a different telling me to go

to a different lift and if it's telling

me it's full I might be told to try

again later if I'm really tired on God

now I have to think about this do I want

to walk up all these stairs maybe I can

wait what it what are the consequences

here for me and if you look at it from

the moments of truth point of view the

customer surface is almost the entire

thing the only thing that I don't see is

the calculation going on behind the

scenes where the lift is working out

which floor to send me or which lifts to

send me right I don't see that so if

we're thinking about it from the points

of those documentation the moments of

truth these key moments that made sense

they were telling me at the right

moments what to do it's just that the

instructions were wrong because they

couldn't help me from avoiding making

those errors okay so I propose this

change rather than move maybe enter

because that's more accurately

describing what you're doing rather than

the journey maybe go it's simple it

makes sense and changing the the wording

to avoid the potential errors right so

rather than assuming that everything is

going to go well select the floor and

you will be given the right information

well I wasn't so choose your floor if

lifts are full advised reception so now

I have a pathway if something goes wrong

I can I know what I need to do I can go

and speak to reception and they can sort

something out I don't have to just stand

there and ponder my life and consider a

career change

right look at locate the lift and enter

if the lift is full

select your floor to call for a new lift

so again providing a pathway

right helping people work through the

frustration and figure out what they

need to do next okay and then the last

one if the floor isn't lit on the inside

panel exit and try again yeah

also there's less words which I always

like write less jargon less less


okay most important if you do nothing

else please do this and I'm sure most of

you do this already but it's a nice

little axiom normalized or not at all

use it or lose it right either use it or

use the documentation as part of what

the business are doing every day or the

customers doing everyday or get rid of

it and that's maybe it sounds have been

harsh but if something is sitting on the

shelf and not being used it's much more

likely to go out of date so it's very

important that everyone updates with

every change so my aptitude for this is

that everyone needs to be involved and

particularly because the organizations

that I'm working

they don't have technical writers they

don't have teams that work on this it's

very much up to us to make it happen so

we make it happen everyone updates with

every change and what that does is it

allows people that are actively doing

the work in their teams especially in an

agile environment they're making changes

constantly so they have the access and

the power to keep those documents

up-to-date internal-external einman I

mean this goes without saying we want to

make sure that what we do internally

aligns with what's being presented to

the user and also visual management

tools so any kind of stand-ups or

anything like that you can use your

Doc's as a way to mark them up and you

know use them as part of your process

improvement activities use them for your

continuous improvement you know have

them on the wall scribble on them use

them to communicate hey this is this

part people don't really understand that

this is where we're getting a lot of

complaints so in this example we can

take this and tack it on the wall and

then whenever we observe things going

wrong with the process we can put over a

little red dot in lean that's actually

called a measles chart I'm sure you can

see why

and and you don't have to use dots you

can use people's faces you can use dates

you can use whatever you feel like but

the idea is that you're collecting in a

casual way but in a consistent way

what's going wrong so just to recap

eliminate the need so if you don't have

a particular feature that people if you

have a people feature that people aren't

using get rid of it show don't tell so

use visual documentation wherever you


videos images not just because they

communicate more effectively but because

they tell the person why they're doing

something target value focus on the

things that actually have the biggest

impact for your users and finally make

it normal or don't make it at all so

make it as part of what people do every

day or don't do it okay thank you very


hopefully that tells you everything you

need to know