The Runbooks Manifesto

This is the Runbooks Manifesto: the reason why I built Runbooks. After years of struggling with wikis and word docs instead of a proper solution for my team's documentation, I went out and built my own solution. I'm convinced that every person or team which is seriously interested in improving should be using a checklist or runbook. If you are having trouble justifying the time to write such documents, or are having trouble convincing others, read on.

Tenet 1: Improvement requires consistency

Runbooks was founded on the idea that improvement requires consistency. If you want to be able to get better at something, you must first be able to repeat what you did last time. Otherwise, you randomly repeat errors from the past, and have one-off successes you can't duplicate again in the future. So, the first goal for a team that wants to get things right, is to figure out how to do it again.

Tenet 2: Consistency requires documentation

For any non-trivial process, consistency requires documentation. You can't count on someone's memory to get it right. Either there are too many steps, the steps are too complex, or it happens too infrequently to remember. That doesn't even account for turnover. If it's important enough to do right, it's important enough to do the writing.

Tenet 3: Documentation must be integrated

If you want people to read it, documentation must be integrated with your team's workflow. When people are busy getting their work done, they only ever go find the docs when they recognize they are confused and need help. Except that almost never happens after a person's first month on the job. Instead, they just muddle through and invent whatever process they like, ignoring all the learning built into the docs the team took so much time to create.

Tenet 4: Integration requires a purpose-built tool

No generic documentation tool (e.g., Google Docs, wikis, etc.) is going to have robust workflow. That's not what they're for, and anything which gets bolted on isn't worth using. No general workflow tool (e.g., Trello, JIRA, etc.) treats documentation as a first class feature. It's tucked away behind three links and a dialog or two, if it's present at all. To get both robust process documentation and workflow in the same place, you need a tool built to do exactly that.

If you want continuous improvement, check out Runbooks: the integrated tool purpose-built for writing and using runbooks.