Blogumentation and storytelling

I am in the process of writing a slidedeck and a few other bits and pieces to support it as a part of our ‘communications strategy’ (meh) for the run up to the launch of our new website (yay). Given I am prevaricating about that (as always) I have been looking at what we — well I — have already been doing.

Basically the kind of communications (really just blogging and presentations) I tend to do to support the work basically break down in to two categories;

1. What and how? (sometimes when)

2. Why and who?

The first I am (mis)naming ‘blogumentation’ because while I agree with the Agile Manifesto — as ever — when it says;

Working software over comprehensive documentation

It clearly does not say ‘..over ANY documentation.’

So I encourage all team members to contribute blogposts (not always public — some never escape Slack) about what we are building and how we are going about it.

The reality is that this will be invaluable when our current (but not permanent) team start to disperse — knowledge transfer is a genuine risk to the work and while our code is logical and well commented with comprehensive (and comprehensible) tests the blogposts provide much needed context. It is a funny thing that some individuals who would baulk at writing documentation at all will happily crank out a 800 word blogpost on the same topic 🙂

Many of our ‘show and tells’ and internal communications fall in to this category as well — they often focus in on the detail of what can and can’t be done, who can and can’t do what and when things will be available. As Joe Friday used to say “Just the facts,ma’am.”

No small part of it is about managing expectations (something I am dreadful at but my team is increasingly great at — due in no small part because of tidying up after me!)

On the topic of ‘show and tells’ I enjoyed this recent post about how they are doing them on the new Civil Service Learning project.

The second type of communications I tend to contribute to is what I tend to refer to as ‘storytelling’.

It is about placing the work we are doing in a wider context and being more open about our ambitions and challenges (including failures along the way). It is the rare time I tend to refer to things like ‘vision’ and ‘culture’.

This is the writing I prefer and the presentations I tend to struggle through outside of the office to wider audiences. It is about changing perceptions and building excitement more than managing expectations. It is a selling job — not only on the website we are building but also selling the capabilities of us as a team building it. Your national statistics are safe with us 🙂

With all of this I believe I have a responsibility to the wider network to share experiences — good and bad — because so many of us share the same opportunities and challenges that the more we share, the more we learn, the better we ALL get. As usual the 10th principle is spot on;

Make things open: it makes things better

With all this activity I abide by the advice from Giles about ‘using words normal people would use’ and ‘using a human voice’ — to be honest I was doing both of these things long before Giles recommended them but he makes such a strong, eloquent case in both posts they supersede any thoughts on the topic I might have had.

I also supplement all of this with social media activity but it has to be said that my interactions in that space are so haphazard as to no even fall in to my loose definitions of ‘communications’!

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