Post here examples of problems you have faced trying to complete a document in the past

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One of the exercises for this week in the admin processes component is to share examples of problems you have had when faced trying to complete a document in the past. Remember, these can be from anything, uni, volunteering, a job unrelated to conservation etc. I've got a lot of these I can share with you! One I've often encountered is not knowing who is meant to be doing what on the document, for example, being confused about who is the person who has the final say on the contents of the document and who needs to review the document.

Please post your thoughts as comments below and then we can start a conversation. 

Beth Robinson

WildLearning Specialist, WildTeam

I'm a WildLearning Specialist with WildTeam, a bit of a odd job title. My main role is to design, deliver and organise both our online and class-based training workshops. One of the best parts of my job is meeting other conservationists and learning about the work that they do. I really enjoy geeking out reading teaching theory and thinking about ways I can more creatively and engagingly deliver learning. Before working for WildTeam I did a PhD in invasive plants and human wildlife interactions. I find it really interesting to learn about the ways people interact with nature, both when nature is being wonderful, but also when is is being a bit annoying!
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Go to the profile of Francesca Bandoli
7 months ago

Hi everyone,

when working on a conservation project I had to complete the financial report concerning the educational and conservation activities carried out by my institution. It was something new to me and, at that time, I did not have received any type of training on financial management and reporting. I had to struggle with multiple Excel factsheets full of formulas and financial terms. I lost a lot of time to figure out how to deal with a massive amount of data on commercial invoices, contracts, expenditures etc. 

I also had issues when writing my first compliance report. Every year our government requires all zoos to send a detailed report on their activities. The document plays a key role in the zoo license renewal process. Nevertheless, there are no guidelines nor templates available and I had to create my own version that, luckily, worked well.

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing!

Go to the profile of David Champness
7 months ago

Hi Beth, 

My main example of a problem completing documents has to be formatting including referencing. I have to produce memos and reports often on a weekly basis and we do have templates but I can always guarantee that a document has multiple authors than formatting will need to be resolved on deadline / submission day! 

My other example is related around saving and editing of documents on digital platforms e.g. google or Microsoft teams / 365. This has lead to frequent problems with corruption and lost work and also just simply not knowing where to find things. 

Thanks

David

Go to the profile of David Champness
7 months ago

Also to add on document numbers, appreciate the logic with the PMWC method but if you start with org name then its often tough to filter in a file structure. In my organisation we tend to start with date of doc in YYMMDD format , then doc ID, doc name and rev No.

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing David. Do you have any solutions to the Microsoft 365 / google issues? Is the challenge that documents are not syncing? Perhaps the hive mind of this group will have some ideas. 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks David. By filter do you mean sort into order? As if the name is standardised and you are using version numbers, then if is very easy to sort them in to chronological order. That said, the most important thing is to have a system which is adhered to, which it sounds like you have! 

Go to the profile of David Champness
7 months ago

Hi Beth, I think the solution was basically always keep a desktop backup if the document is important. As good as 365 and google docs you cant have complete blind faith in them :-) 

Go to the profile of Camille
7 months ago

Hi ! 

My example relates to an internship during my Master degree in a charity that promotes animal welfare and stands for the defense of animals.

I was working on the particular case of animals in circuses. My missions included : making lists of media promoting shows with animals and of distributors of tickets for shows with animals; writing letters to ask them to stop; sending the letters and monitoring the answers, among other things like writing articles for the blog.

My tutor had designed an excel document to keep track of each task, their description, duration of task and if it was done or not.

I actually had some difficulty to fill in this document, first of all because I would not have used excel a lot at that time and it took me some time to familiarize with it. And also because it was pretty hard to define the time I would need for each task and to report on the duration of each task. 

I'm not sure it's clear! Sorry if it's not ! 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

That is clear, thanks for sharing Camille! 

Go to the profile of Douglas Anderson
7 months ago

My examples are:

1. A couple of years ago I had to submit a budget report for one of my research projects. I had never done one before, and the organisation also had a very patchy history of undertaking tasks such as this so there was no template for me to follow and also there wasn't anyone who was able to give me proper advice on how I should structure my report. Instead I used various examples from the internet for what the final product should look like, and I ended up using a mix of Excel and Word to complile the final product.

2. My second example is my university thesis I produced for my Bachelor's degree. The initial stages of writing my thesis were a bit confusing for me as there really isn't one standard, universally accepted format for writing a dissertation. After much help from my tutor we refined my layout to one we were happy with, but even now I still read papers that use different layouts for the main body of text, and cite references in different ways.

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing Douglas. That first example sounds like it was a bit frustrating and that a template could have saved you a lot of time!

Go to the profile of Jane Reeve
7 months ago

Hi

I am working on a five year wetland project and unfortunately, partway through the Finance Officer unexpectedly died.  As a result I worked in the dark about the finances of the project for a number of months as his PC was not available with all the information on (lesson about back ups and shared Google Drives learnt by the organisation).  I was then asked by the Donor for a detailed cash flow to the end of the project.   I had never done this before and had to go back through a year's worth of expenditure to understand the patterns of payments about items I had previously had no visibility of.  Was very challenging and time consuming with no support and no one to query about monies coming in and out.  I then had to predict all future spend month by month to the end of the project and monitor this as a live document.  I eventually completed this and it was accepted by the Donor.  It has helped as I have a better understanding of the financial side (something previously avoided) and it meant that when a new Finance Officer came on board I had all the information to hand on about assets, cash flow etc. to explain and pass on. 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Hello Jane, gosh that is sad. It sounds like you did a good job of piecing things together and learning some organisational lessons along the way. 

Go to the profile of Lizzie Bannister
7 months ago

Yes, very unexpected! Shows how anything can happen!

Go to the profile of Jaima Smith
7 months ago

Hi everyone, the only example I really have is when writing my PhD dissertation I struggled quite a bit with feeling overwhelmed and writer's block - perhaps stemming from my own insecurities of thinking 'what difference will my research  even make, will it matter, is it significant?' etc etc. Happy to say I powered through and finished on time :-) 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Well done for finishing! I can definitely relate to this example.

Go to the profile of Loïs Lelanchon
7 months ago

Aside from the fear of the blank page on some policy documents, I have worked for a project that did not have a centralised drive for documents accessible for all the project team members. As a result, the project team which had access to the drive had to send the documents to the rest of the team and there was a great deal of confusion as regards the versions to use. 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing, that does sound confusing! 

Go to the profile of NATALIE RHOADES
7 months ago

Hi all,

When writing a management report assessment for my MSc programme, the available plans for the Local Nature Reserve were provided to us but were over a decade old. A lot has changed in terms of how these official plans have changed over time and what has been feasible to complete or not, but were not given these updates and so our assessment work felt very outdated and ill-informed. 

Additionally, I've had a very similar experience as Beth in terms of using R for statistics. Several months ago I was joining several tables using R and was figuring out what worked and what didn't, and I gave these iterations random names. When I look back at them now, I don't know which iterations worked and which didn't, so I will need to spend excess time deciphering them. 

Natalie

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing Natalie. Glad I'm not along with my R confusion! 

Go to the profile of Ana Di Pangracio
7 months ago

A couple of times I have produced reports for donors using a template that was not the updated one. The new version had changed quite a lot and I sort of had to the work all over again.

That has also happened a couple of times with forms to submit to the bank. Bad communication with the Finance Area led to completing old forms and not updated versions :s

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing Ana, sounds frustrating. 

Go to the profile of Giedre Belousova
7 months ago

Hello all,

I can totally relate to Beth's example with R - been there done that and it was so frustrating! :D

But another example would be my Bachelor's thesis. I was fixing my references last minute before the submission deadline. I was done fixing it maybe 10 minutes before the closing time, and I would have made if: the internet hadn't been crashing. I asked for the ethernet cable at the library which the IT guy refused to lend. Then the document had to be printed, but the printer stopped working. It was a nightmare. Luckily the school decided to set another deadline two hours after the first one and I submitted my thesis then. But it was a big lesson for me to not leave tasks for last minute. Phew!

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Oh wow how stressful. Glad it worked out ok in the end.

Go to the profile of Shakira Todd
7 months ago

Hi, 

I often have issues with reports when they go through the review process, often up to 4 reviewers up the chain of command. As the author, I expect that I review the comments by each reviewer as they are made in tracked changes. However, this process gets messy with people accepting changes, making untracked changes etc, loss of versions etc. 

Second, is a centralised filing system. We use Google drive, except some staff choose to store files on their hardrive or download them so we loose version history/tracked changes. 

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing. Sounds confusing. Have you thought about using the doc review tracker instead? 

Go to the profile of Melissa Liszewski
7 months ago

For a large and complex project I was involved with, the key documents were not available in a shared folder that all workstream leaders and colleagues who needed to refer to and build off of them could access them. We often did not have the information we needed when we needed it, didn't have the most up to date version which meant we'd later have to go back and correct the document we had written with old info, or we'd simply not be aware of something previously agreed that could in fact affect our work.

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing Melissa, sounds frustrating as wasted your time. 

Go to the profile of Rachel Davies
7 months ago

For my organisation, we use SharePoint for storing documents all staff need access to. I've had lots of problems with risk assessments due to not fully understanding how SharePoint works! I've downloaded blank risk assessments, filled them out on my laptop and then, when going back into SharePoint to upload, found that I've somehow edited the documents on SharePoint. It can be a nightmare and can take ages to un-do.

I also find that naming documents, and different versions of documents, is incredibly important. There is nothing worse than having multiple copies of the same document saved and trying to figure out which is the current version! I think this comes down to document management and is certainly something I could spend more time working on. During my masters, we were asked to completed document and data management plans and I think it can be a really useful tool.

Go to the profile of Beth Robinson
7 months ago

SharePoint confuses me a little too. I'm just trying to get used to it, but Google docs is much more intuitive for me. Perhaps the organisation could give some SharePoint training / best practice guidance to all staff?

Go to the profile of Hannah Mccurdy-Adams
7 months ago

Hello,

One issue I've been dealing with recently is collaborators/partners taking on too many projects. They don't have the time to work on documents or even answer emails at times. I think I need to get a better grasp of the work that needs to be done as we're leading up to the strict deadlines so that I can give more regular updates/reminders well in advance of strict deadlines. I'm also working on being more strategic in choosing partners for future projects.

Go to the profile of David Thomas
7 months ago

Hi everyone 

For my dissertation I began to collect data on people who had been convicted for egg theft (taken directly from the nest) which is illegal in the UK.  It soon came to my attention that many were reoffending there for I was recording the same individual twice or more.

The aim was to produce a GIS map and list of the offenders to record any patterns in career choices ages and gender, it brought up interesting results.

Go to the profile of Lizzie Bannister
7 months ago

Hi

My problem is grammar. I struggle with this mainly because I am hard of hearing so whenever I created any writing or documents I should always get my writing checked, which is frustrating when I write a blog or document for my supervisor.

Lizzie