A nice side-effect of remote work is more documentation. But, there’s too much unnecessary emphasis on keeping them up to date. Even stale documents can serve as an excellent time machine and debugger to step through people’s thinking.

When done well, documents become a great template to absorb a company’s culture and fit in. They can show how decisions happen and how people make their opinions heard . Leaders can aid quick decision-making by demonstrating the culture they want to create.

Documents then become a tool used by everone to have robust discussions. It doesn’t have to be Amazon’s famous 6-pager—a simple list of bullet points can provide as much context and set the stage. Asynchronous comments create room to think and meetings get used only for nuanced and informed decisions.

Yet, documents are not a perfect record. Opinions will evolve, perspectives will change, and unrecorded decisions will happen. An imperfect trail can still be of immense value, at the very least making meetings useful.

Image by Stuart Rankin (CC BY-NC 2.0).