Do you suffer from ‘Versionitis’?

Do you suffer from ‘Versionitis’?

I like getting things right the first time.  This is that perfectionist tendency rearing its head again.  Not only do I like a document to be accurate in its spelling, punctuation and grammar, I like it to be done super quickly.  So when you introduce other people into document writing, I get worried that things will go wrong really quickly too.

Creating a document as a team scares me.  Firstly, because I know that there will usually be disagreement and I am not great with conflict.  Secondly, because it will often take longer than if I did it myself: I hate time wasting and am very impatient.  But thirdly, and probably most importantly, I fear the number of versions that are going to be generated and the loss of control that I know is on its way.

Have some compassion please, there is certainly some rationale and evidence for all my issues.  Whilst divergent opinions are good and prevent groupthink; too much difference of opinion can lead to stalemate or hostility. Not great.  Leaders often need to act with speed, agility and clarity, and there is truth in the claim that after ten years of headship I can do things well and I can do them quickly.  Equally, control is not innately evil.  Like money, the internet, or TV, it is much more important how you use it.  Leaders need to hold things together, and if you lose the room, or the document, it can be very hard to get it back.

So I have adopted some ways to help myself with my version phobia; which is almost so serious that it has become ‘versionitis’.

Firstly, setting out a clear structure and framework within which the drafting will operate. I welcome different views and opinions but make it clear that there are time and spatial boundaries within which the creativity will work.  Innovation needs structure to really flourish.

Secondly, having a very simple way of identifying the versions.  Obviously numbering can help.  But so can using different coloured paper, highlighting the new parts or chunking the document so that only certain sections are looked at in one session.  I have adopted a beautiful azure blue highlighting for when I make a change to a document so people know that the blue boss is around.

Thirdly and finally, remembering that sometimes good is good enough.  Whilst excellence is well worth pursuing, it isn’t worth pursuing at all costs.  After all, surely a good complete document is better than a brilliant one that is still not quite finished.

Technology offers potentially the ultimate solution for versionitis.  You got there far earlier than me I’m sure.  Once I was over the initial panic when people explained Googledocs, I saw the huge benefits.  Online, ever available and with a clear way of seeing who has changed what, this is great.  Just remember the need for defining the role of the leader and the team; for clarifying boundaries, adopting good timeframes, and an endpoint, and we may have actually found a versionitis cure.

Julian Dutnall,
CEO, LIFE Education Trust