What's the point of documentation?

When times get hard, the Signal vs Noise blog by the guys at 37signals keeps me going. It’s always good to have someone reminding you why you love this business, and how it can work.
A post today prompts an interesting debate about agile work processes in big environments, like the public sector. My heart is with the 37signals view:

The problem is when you build confidence with documents, you are nailing yourself down to assumptions that are probably wrong (assumptions always seem to fall by the wayside once things get real). Yeah, you may feel better that you have a recipe written down. But if it’s a recipe for failure, what’s the point?

Bingo. Documentation does not get the job done – ever. More than anything else, you need to be working with good people you can trust, and to let them do what they’re good at. If you trust them, don’t put them in a straightjacket. Don’t be scared to let them tell you how it should be done.
But there is a point to documentation: it defines the battleground when (or being optimistic, if) it all goes wrong. See it in those terms, and its purpose – and indeed, its practical importance – become clear.

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