Tips on better async working: writing meta-documents

Working asynchronously via documents and diagrams is great for enabling people to read and input at a time that suits them but for ensuring the document communicates what it needs to often takes more than what is in the document itself.

To help get the document right I sometimes write a meta-document, a document about the document, a plan for what the document needs to achieve. It’s a bit like an agenda for a meeting. It helps keep you on track and ensure you consider more than just the contents of the document or diagram.

The meta-document might include:

  • What is the purpose of the document or diagram? Is it inform, discuss, present?
  • Who is it for? Is the
  • What are they expecting? Is it document, diagram, presentation, video?
  • What assumptions do I have about what they know?
  • What visual language or tone of voice will work best?
  • How much explanation or contextual information do the audience need to make sense of the document?
  • And anything else that sets up the document for success.