We used to wake up to 100 emails overnight and a voicemail.
Now we wake up to 9 WhatsApp messages, 210 slack notifications, 5 calendar requests, 73 emails, 3 missed calls, 2 secure messages await you, a telegram message, a pocket dial, 2 new voice messages,
Technology has given us amazing tools to work together, and communicate in the richest, most immediate way.
As each new tool is created, we add it on to our “mix” , rarely replacing any that went before, although smoke signals and pigeons seem a bit niche these days.
We now have mail, email, phone calls, VOIP calls, video calls, Zoom, Slack, SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, Asana notifications, intranets, secure online messaging systems, collaborative software, shared Word files, Webex, meetings, casual chats, and quite frankly the whole thing is a mess.
Four things hit me.
1)We’ve rarely thought about the best tool for the job , or the systems and protocols we should use, and priorities.
2)We’ve no idea of the etiquette for such tools, do we text people late at night, when, do we need to tell people if we’re running late but while working remotely, when do you leave an “out of office” and why do we call it that
3)Fragmentation is a nightmare, so many threads of conversations.
4) All communication tends towards being more immediate and interruptive, forcing people to never think and always be considering how fast to reply, even if it means badly
If was a medium sized company today this is what I’d do or hope for.
I’d ban Slack ( unless it was making software)
I’d ask everyone to download WhatsApp.
I'd only want people to communicate in these ways
1)Tightly run meetings where people are set an agenda beforehand and key necessary outcomes from the meeting are well known, especially decisions than need to be made. With a contact report or new status updated afterwards
2) Everything that can be hosted as a collaborative document should be hosted this way, ideally using Google Docs.
3) Wonder around the office lots and when appropriate ask for impromptu chats,
4) Emails key to most forms of semi urgent communication, especially that which is asynchronous
5) WhatsApp used only for ultra important short form communication, "I'm stuck in the toilet", "Has the client arrived, I see a car"
6)Default to WhatsApp group chats, not Zoom.
7) Make phone calls socially acceptable, even spontaneous ones, but use WhatsApp, and send a message ahead of time to the other person saying what the call is about in one sentence.
Every company is different, working in a chicken factory or architects studio or software development or ad agency or lawyers office is different, but the principles of communication should be thought through and well known.
We should consider whats urgent, what needs the richness of face to face, we should default to things which allow people express themselves in richer, easier ways. Voice not words.
We should consider most of all how tools work best together.