We began writing the Base Two Handbook on August 26th, 2016. It took about a year and a half to get it to "completion," and now we're ready to share it with the world! You can check out the Base Two Handbook here. Read on to learn more about our purpose and process.
As we began what would be considered a "hiring spree" for Base Two (we hired four people in 2016!), it became apparent that we were throwing new hires squarely into the deep end. Many of our internal processes and cultural expectations were scattered around in various Google Drive documents, if they were written down at all. This was, obviously, not ideal.
The original goal for the Handbook was to provide a new employee with helpful information for their first days and weeks with Base Two. But it has also proven to be helpful to the company overall. It has prompted us to consider our internal policies and given us a structured process in which to discuss changes. We hope that by publishing publicly it will also serve as an ambassador for our unique organization.
In setting out to create our Handbook, one of the first things we did was to research what other companies were doing. Of all the examples we came across, the "Handbook for New Employees" (PDF) by Valve resonated with us the most. We appreciate their conversational tone, and we really like their glossary, which is why you'll see one in our Handbook as well. Perhaps someday we'll also have cool illustrations.
Writing can be daunting on its own; writing what essentially represents company policy doubly so. In order to keep this project on our team's radar we scheduled weekly, 1-hour Handbook Work Sessions. These voluntary meetings were meant mostly as encouragement-via-calendar-reminder to continue on in-process work and review work that had been submitted for review. We also added the Handbook as a topic of conversation in our Weekly Meetings.
We started by creating a rough outline of the Handbook sections. This happened over a couple-hour session of brainstorming in a shared Google Doc. We then separated each section into its own Markdown file, all of which were eventually added to a private repository in GitHub.
We decided to host our Handbook on GitHub because Base Two is currently comprised entirely of developers who are all comfortable and familiar with using GitHub to contribute to and collaborate on projects. It was important to us that every member of the team felt comfortable with the process, since we wanted the Handbook to be an ever-evolving and team-built document.
The Issues feature that is built into GitHub was very helpful for this project. We used the it to create small tasks that team members could claim and focus on. Once each section of the Handbook was at least initialized, we added issues for things like typos, broken links, updated policies. This process ensured that nothing was forgotten and also allowed us suggest improvements without feeling pressured to get them done immediately.
Any time an issue was completed, it went through GitHub's Pull Request process before the changes were merged into the Handbook. At this stage, any team member could review the proposed additions and request changes.
In the switch from the private to public repository, we removed the Git history. So please note that while it looks like I (Caitlin) wrote the whole thing myself, I had a lot of help from every member of the team.
As our Handbook is a living document, it will change and evolve over time. Now that it's public, you'll be able to see our process as it happens. We welcome conversation around this project, and hope you enjoy checking it out!