Runbooks and Runlogs

It's the difference between a freshly printed manual and a dog-eared copy on a clipboard.

A runbook is a manual which serves as a reminder to a knowledgeable person of how to accomplish a specific goal. For example, you might have a runbook aimed at a recruiting team on how to set up an in-house interview loop for a candidate. There's a clear goal (the schedule is clear to all parties), there's a clear set of steps to get there, and it assumes the people executing those steps are knowledgable about the company's recruiting process. The runbook, then, serves as documentation of which steps are needed, and how they are supposed to be executed. That is, it's the extra stuff a knowledgable person would need to know how we do that here.

But, that's not where things should end. Such runbooks are gathered up in dusty binders to look pretty, unused, on a shelf somewhere to satisfy some ISO-9000 inspector. That's not what you need. You want something that your team can actually use to get better every day.

Once you have a good runbook, you now need what we call a "runlog". A runlog is copy of the runbook you create each time you perform the process it documents. It's the copy you scribble notes on as you work. It's the copy where you scratch out steps that don't apply, and sketch out alternate steps on the back of the page. If the runbook is the pristine copy that sits in a binder on the shelf, the runlog is the dog-eared copy on the clipboard that never leaves your side.

So, for example, if you have a runbook called "Set up an interview loop", you might have a runlog called "Set up Pat Smith's interview loop". It's the case of actually setting up one particular interview loop for a specific person. These runlogs are separate documents which serve as a live view on how the process is going. So, you'd be able to check off the steps as you go along, leave comments, add new steps as they come up, etc.

The usefulness of a runlog doesn’t end when the process is complete. With the live notes you collected, you now know what worked and what didn't work in the original runbook. Do you always skip a certain step? Was some instruction unclear? Do you always have to jot down an email address or telephone number? Re-incorporate those things back into your original runbook to save yourself the trouble next time. Over time, your runbooks will not only keep up with the changes to your team, but even improve and become more efficient.


Our product, Runbooks, is the only place you'll find both runbooks and runlogs, intimately tied together to create an unmatched integration of documentation and workflow. It wrangles the power of a good runbook into a form you team will actually use to get better every day.