Making people’s lives easier: writing a playbook for your company

It’s probably an odd thing for a dyslexic person to say, but I love writing. Although it takes me a lot longer than most people, it’s a lot of fun to try and communicate in a clear way without talking. And from what I hear, I’m actually pretty good at writing, which makes enjoying it even more rewarding. So when I took on the task of starting’s company ‘playbook’ (a sort of manual for current/prospective employees and partners), I was actually quite excited to get going. Maybe that sounds boring, but it’s true.

I read Thoughtbot’s playbook to get me going. It’s really, really long (and incredibly detailed), so I didn’t quite manage to get through it all — but it provided me with a solid idea of why a playbook is important & made me begin to think about the types of things I wanted to include when writing my own. Anybody who’s inspired to write a playbook for their company after reading this post should definitely start with Thoughtbot’s — it’s an excellent example. (Read ours as well, obviously.)

So what’s the deal with playbooks? Why are they worth the hassle, if indeed they are at all? Maybe it seems like a bit of a ballache to read another company’s how-to guide and then spend hours making your own. You probably feel like you’ve got enough on your plate without doing any of that, and besides, your company knows how it works anyway. But there are actually lots of reasons why a playbook is incredibly useful, not just for you, but for your entire community.

1) It makes it easier for incoming team members to adjust to their new work environment. Think of a playbook, in part, as a kind of manual that new team members can refer to whenever they’re confused about what they’re meant to do in a certain situation. If your playbook covers these things, you can spend less time and energy on describing nitty gritty details to new employees — which leaves you with more free time.

2) It forces you to be more transparent about how your company works. This is a really really really really good thing that ALL companies should work towards. Writing a playbook is a great starting point for thinking this way. Of course it feels weird that you’re telling people the ins and outs of your sales technique, or whatever, but it’s always great to be more open.

3) It highlights any inconsistencies or problems with the structure of your company that you may not have noticed beforehand. Writing a playbook really puts your company under scrutiny, because you have to explain how things are done and why. If you find it hard to explain why something’s done a certain way, or can’t remember the protocol for a certain aspect of what your company does, this shows that there are things you need to work on. And this is a good thing! Highlighting ways you can improve is always a good thing!

4) It allows you to give back to your wider community. In your playbook, you’re undoubtedly going to talk about things that are incredibly useful to other companies and individuals working toward similar goals. In my view, this is no cause for concern — though there are many that would say this is simply giving your “competitors” a leg up. But that’s not really how I approach anything in life, and I think it’s great to give freely accessible tips for success — especially in an industry, like this one, that’s full of newcomers who haven’t got a clue

5) It enables everybody who works at your company to have a say in how things are done. Your playbook will be, or at least should be, editable by anybody who works at the company. If someone sees something they were previously unaware of but disagree with, they’ve now got the option to comment on this, which brings about the possibility of changing how it’s done. This is particularly good for organizations that are run horizontally, like, but is a fantastic idea for anybody — regardless of management structure.

So that rounds off my account of why you — or someone who works with you — should start thinking about writing a playbook. Feel free to post other existing examples in the comments section!