Playbooks Before Automation

Jacob Kaplan-Moss in his “Simple Product Management Tricks” article:

Playbooks are the middle ground I reach for in these circumstances. When I see a process like this, instead of either doing nothing or just diving in and writing some code, I’ll first write a playbook. A playbook is nothing more than a set of instructions for performing the task – a “recipe” if you will. The key is to be as specific as possible. If this is some sort of task that involves code, you can even include bits of code or shell commands that someone following the playbook could copy and paste.

I’m not a professional engineer but this is something I naturally do for anything that takes more than a half dozen steps. My recent blog post about using Excel for trend analysis came right from my work outline. While I was toiling away in Excel I wrote down what I was doing in a note. By the time I was done I had repeatable instructions for myself. Clear steps make automation easier and a lot more fun.