One immediate way to enhance your workflow is to be mindful about the mode of communication you use to relay messages, directions and ideas.
The rise of technology has given us a host of avenues to communicate with each other. But each communication tool has its strengths and limitations for collaborative work. For each interaction with our team, we can choose our communication stream based on whether we’d like to prioritize speed, length or audience. Quite often, though, that decision isn’t as deliberate as it should be. The results range from miscommunication at best and things falling through the cracks at worst.
Here’s the problem
We’ve infused new modes of communication into our lives so quickly over the last decades that we often forget to assess how we use our various means of communication. We often choose the tool closest to hand – perhaps a text message or a FB wall post – instead of taking the time to access or type out an entire email from our smartphones. We start conversations with colleagues on email, and continue them on Skype or GChat, often without pausing to ensure that someone is taking notes on action items or deliverables.
In fact, we bounce between technologies so quickly that it is even easy to forget what we’ve used. We often find ourselves trying to remember:
Did I have that conversation by phone, on my landline or on my mobile device?
Was I chatting with him by IM at my PC or on my tablet in a cafe?
Did I send it by email or text?
This usage amnesia is, on the one hand, a positive sign of how easily we pivot between technologies. On the other hand, forgetting how you’ve communicated something is probably a sign that you are being reactive and losing control of your workday. You now have to rely on complicated search tools to figure out when and how to pick up a conversation or meeting. You repeat things to different team members who may or may not have been included in previous communications. In short, you’ve succumbed to the weaknesses of the technology tools without benefitting from their strengths.
The solution is to deploy a thoughtful policy on which communication technologies to use and when. In doing so, you’ll naturally recall where information was transmitted and housed. Your team will be on the same page when it comes to assignments and deliverables. More importantly, you’ll be using these technologies to your greatest advantage instead of letting some of them become a time-consuming nuisance controlled by others.
Start by putting all the peripheral tools aside and focusing instead on your communication staples, which will likely be limited to email, phone, instant message and text. Once you’ve rationalized these basics, start reintegrating augmentation tools like Voxer, Twitter, in-platform mail on LinkedIn and Facebook or task management programs like Asana or Astrid in limited and deliberate quantities.
For each tool, first break down its strengths and weaknesses. Then balance them by creating a policy for yourself and for those you communicate with on which tools to use and when.
It’s important to keep in mind the particular nuances of your own team while creating this policy. For example, will team members need to be able to communicate while away from their desks or after hours? What’s the standard tool for communicating action items vs. sharing knowledge articles among the team? Do team members all have access to the same hardware (smartphones, Macs, PCs, etc.) that can run the chosen tools?
Coming up with standard policies for tools of communication lets you customize your needs to the realities of your company, team and customer base. At the end of the day, it will be an easy and effective bump for your organization’s and your team’s productivity as a whole.
Stay tuned for Prialto’s assessment of the pros and cons of a variety of communication tools, starting with chat messages.