With the growing need for reducing waste in all aspects of work done in an organization, people are looking at innovative ways to obtain this objective. One waste area, often found in organizations handling outsourced projects, is excessive – and often redundant – documentation. These organizations may be certified against a variety of standards, which only adds to the need for documentation.

To overcome this waste, practitioners can follow a simple plan for leaning existing documents, and for creating new lean documents. By building and maintaining a master document, they will be able to follow the paperwork related to their various projects and standards. Leaning documents also:

  • Enables a systematic and structured approach for problem solving,
  • Gives direction to the team’s thoughts and actions, and
  • Allows for less time spent dealing with documents.

The following case study illustrates the benefits of leaner documentation.

Case Study: Organizing Documents

A firm is going for its capability maturity model integration (CMMI) assessment. The firm has obtained some templates for organizing documents, but they are not specific to their needs. Instead of simply completing these generic templates, another template is created that is tailored directly to the firm.

Although it may seem odd to create a new document to aid in leaning other documents, the team knows the project will be beneficial once it is completed. It is like calling a meeting to talk about reducing the number of meetings called – silly but necessary.

Structuring the Customized Template

The template is created in a software spreadsheet program and is organized in five sections, shown in the figure below.

Structure of Customized Template
Structure of Customized Template

1. Plan Section – The Plan section contains a list of plans that are to be leaned. For example, the plans governing project management would be:

  • Project management
  • Configuration management and data management
  • Risk management
  • Measurement
  • Process and product quality assurance

The names of these plans are listed in this section and each plan is distinguished with a color code.

2. Table of Contents (TOC) Section – This section lists the TOC entries for each plan, including team member involvement, training and other activities involved in the plans. The same color code should be followed to make the TOC entries match their corresponding plans.

3. Option Section – This section is made up of a drop-down option of “Yes” or “No.” Interpretations of these options are as follows:

  • Yes – This option is selected if the TOC entry is present in the document under review.
  • No – This option is selected if the TOC entry is not present in the document under review.

4. Decision Section – In this section, under the column Final Decision, the names of the documents under consideration (the plans) are given as drop-down options along with the option “Not Required.”

5. Remarks Section – This section is provided to capture remarks or comments, if any, during the entire exercise.

Using the Template to Lean Documents

The team should fill in each section of the template, grouping the plans as discussed above. After completing the entire exercise, the entries that are repeated in various documents can be seen. The results may surprise those completing the template.

For each TOC entry, the team should look to see if it has more than one “Yes” marked in the Option section. If so, determine if a decision about responsibility is required. If it is not, select Not Required in the decision menu. If it is, decide which plan it should be moved to and complete that task.

After filtering out the non-required TOC entries from the template, the team should review all the entries again to ensure they meet their satisfaction. The remarks section is used to record their findings, if any, during the review.

Replicating the System

The approach can be used in creating new documents as well. In this case, instead of listing TOC entries for all the plans, list all the entries that would be required to be documented. The team can brainstorm to come up with all the sections required as standards of various certifications and then select the options that should be moved to a different plan. This helps in attaining the objective of Lean documents.

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