Standards for Working Documents in Collaborative Work
I'm looking for your feedback. Many years ago I wrote a post entitled, Alpha Drafts and Team Work. I proposed that as we think about collaborative work that there is value in transparency - even with work in progress. I argued that we can signal the stage of development and set expectations about the formality and quality of the product. The outcome should be greater synergy across the parties and better understanding of the outcome. With the ability to creating living, collaborative documents, has the standard for formality and perfection changed still more? Are we ok that many of our documents will always be "working documents" or "works in progress?"
At the time of the Alpha Drafts post, I don't believe you could collaboratively edit in real time as you can now with tools like Google Docs, Office 365, and OneDrum. Last night, at least five of my colleagues and I were working on documents we will send to our University leadership today. We were using Google Docs and had the chat bar open to help our coordination. This was a level of writing collaboration I had not experienced -- and it worked. Only once was there a request to let someone "finish a thought" before tweaking.
What feels odd is that we are now sending these documents up the chain as PDFs.
While I understand the benefit of signaling that these are final documents, I'm not sure that they are. I expect there will be comments and useful questions from our leadership, but they'll be made on top of a static document. There is also some irony in that the documents are about communication and collaboration tools and process at our University.
Our organization is just beginning our journey to a more collaborative work environment. For those of you who have been in collaborative environments for a while: How do you treat reports of a committee recommendation? Does it still make sense to have a static version at a transition point, do you just signal what version was used at the decision point, or something else entirely?
Afterword: We are getting to redesign work and work product, but we need to be aware of the past as well. One of our members is the University archivist. Our University is over 150 years old with a rich set of documents available about its history. I'm looking forward to learning how archivists manage these new documents and methods.