What is Underappreciated critical information?  

A team’s unappreciated critical information is only unappreciated as long as access to it is quick and uneventful.  This information is found in a variety of areas for your team, any of which when you can not find can cause ripples of unnecessary stress.  This information can run the gamut of anything from a password to the number for the plumber to the logo for your team shirts.  It is the invaluable documentation of information that is the difference between quick problem solving resolutions and a stressful day… or longer.  

So what are some examples of underappreciated critical information?

Key contact information.

This comprises of the contact information for all of those stakeholders for your team.  Any information utilized in the administration of your team. This may include:  

  • sponsors
  • partners
  • school administration
  • community leaders
  • FIRST support in your area (Regional Directors and Senior Mentors)
  • Vendors (Robot parts, shirts, temporary tattoos, etc.)
  • Who else are stakeholders for your team?

Team Branding

A shared folder of team logos, branding guidelines, etc can help teams to ensure continuity of their image and save time on projects during those limited build season nights. The deadline for team shirts often comes up much faster than you expect, and while you are scrambling to get orders in from your students… you do not want to be struggling to find those elements that need to be on the shirt.

  • Team logos
  • Team fonts and colors values
  • Additional imagery elements associated with your team
  • Both full color and 1 color vector sponsor logos
  • Official FIRST logos
  • FIRST season logos
  • FIRST color values
  • Sponsor logos

Building Maintenance & Emergency Contact information

On a Saturday night, after a 12 hour day at the build space, I sent the last of the exhausted mentors, parents, and students home with the assurance that I was on my way out… right behind them… just after a quick trip to the restroom.  As I was about to leave the restroom, I heard a hissing noise.  I looked behind the toilet and found water spraying out of the supply lines from the tank. No problem, I have had my share of plumbing challenges.  I would turn off the water and call a plumber Monday. I was tired. I reached down to turn the shutoff valve and as I did so, the water pressure of the leak increased.  Saturday night, nearly 10:00pm… and I have a plumbing emergency. We are a community team, with our own build space, so there is no maintenance person to call.  I found a plumber, and continued to sop up the water as quickly as I could until he could arrive.  When he arrived he asked where the outside water shut off valve was and I was so embarrassed.  I knew where this was from a previous water issue and had not thought to go out and turn it off.  To be fair, I was about to collapse before this even started and the valve was on the side of the building… in the grass, it was dark, and I had not been over there for two years.  Soon, the water was shut off, the last of the water cleaned up and his repairs were done.

Following this incident, there was a new notebook with numbers for our new plumber friend, the AC maintenance company, the landlord and others as additional facility information as it came to light.

  • Who are your facilities contacts?
  • Do you have a maintenance contact or need individual service professionals in mind?
  • Do you have an emergency plan? (This one is much more than a bit of contact information)

Passwords!

Seems simple, right? But it can be disastrous for a team.  This is not hyperbole.

  • When you lose the password to your treasurer’s email account (and it has happened) and you no longer have access to that account,
  • When your website goes down during a fundraising push,
  • When you are trying to reapply for a grant with a sponsor from last year and the deadline is today and you can not find that login information.
  • When you are the new team lead and do not have access to previous information.

There are numerous ways these scenarios can cause stress.  Sometimes, you can simply recover the password, other times, that is not an option.  Websites are increasing tightening security and requiring more for your ability to reset a password.  Documenting all of your passwords and having multiple people with access to that document will save a great deal of agitation and time so you can stay on track and you can focus on content over process.

In order for this documentation to work for your team, more than one person needs to have access to critical team information.

How to share the information to the right people.

Developing a living document is not enough, you need to also provide access to the people who need to utilize the information. There are many methods to share this information, the key is to use a solution that works well with the people involved.

Who on your team needs to have access to this information?

Will we need several documents? Maybe the students need the contact information to the sponsors to write the fundraising emails, but the full password list is only accessible by 2-3 team leaders? What works best for your leadership? 

WARNING: If one person has access to an individual team sponsor, this could put the team in danger of losing contact with that sponsor if that person is no longer associated with the team. Contact names, email addresses, and addresses for each of the following can help teams to maintain team function year to year. 

Developing Your Team’s List

I am sure you can think of several nightmares your team could face, maybe some are even unique to your team’s structure.  At the next team meeting and maybe mentor meeting too, have a brainstorming session on what could go wrong, it could help you to develop a list of your team’s underappreciated critical information.

Make these living documents to be added to and updated regularly. The tasks will feel less daunting to try to cover everything. Having places to put the relevant information, will make it easier to document as new things come up. 

Some things that may go on that list.

  • Key contact information (mailing address, website, email, login)
    • sponsors
    • partners
    • school administrators
    • community leaders
    • grant sites
    • FIRST support in your area (Regional Directors and Senior Mentors)
    • Sponsor grant site urls and logins
    • Vendors (Robot parts, t-shirts, temporary tattoos, tools, etc.)
    • Digital and Print Media
    • Official Team logos, fonts, colors, and images.
    • Official FIRST and season logos and colors.
  • Passwords!
  • Communications
    • Website information:
      • Website hosting company
      • Website login information
      • Domain name registrar
    • Team email accounts
    • Social media accounts
    • Online communications applications
    • Third party applications (like zoom or dropbox)
    • Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive or similar account information
  • Operational Team Functions
    • Team Organization
    • Facilities Maintenance & Emergency Contacts 
    • Charter
    • Handbook
    • Bylaws
    • Strategic planning
  • Finances

About the Author

Serving as a mentor since 2011, Elise Cronin-Hurley also served as a Team Lead of 4-H Exploding Bacon Robotics Team 1902 from 2016 - 2019.  She volunteers and judges at numerous FIRST events, on regional planning committees, with the FIRST Hall of Fame, and has conducted workshops on imagery, chairman's and team organization. By day she is a freelance web and graphic designer. Read More about Elise