Asynchronous Communication and distributed work

Just as the world started to work from home, I wrote this message on "Tue, 24 Mar 2020 13:24:45 +0000" to the team I was working with at one of my clients. I only changed a few place to make the text more generic without the specific names of the people.

Nothing really happened to this we kept the old structure of meetings and they had a lot of meetings (I managed to exclude myself from that.) A year and a half later the team was dissolved. Most of the members of that team left the company and my contract was also terminated.

Since then I also did a lot of pair-programming which is in its essence a synchronous way of working and I'll need to combine that into these thoughts, but nevertheless, I think being able to maintain asynchronous communication can be very valuable to the organization.

Hi all,

As I wrote in the Teams channel I think we need to change our communication and our way of working to better fit the current situation.

That is, we can expect much less that all the people necessary to a conversation will be available at the same time. People have small children who need attention at unscheduled times. Moreover Jane is in a different time-zone. I am only working some of the days. In addition it would be nice if some of our communication could also reach future employees.

In general, I think we would like to reduce the number of people who attend a conversation, but we would like to enable everyone, even future employees, to see the conversation and add to it. We also need a way to have more asynchronous communication.

Eg. David asks me a question in a private channel without bothering everyone else, but in a way that I don't need to respond immediately (I can do it an hour later when I have time). Others can easily see the conversation and join it. It is saved in some place and it is searchable so even future employees can find it.

I think we need to find a way so that our discussions will not be confined to a small subset of the people, but without disturbing everyone.

The commit messages in Git are a rather good example: By default we don't send them to everyone, but anyone can look at them later on.

E-mail is quite a bad tool for this. Because at first we only include people who we think will be relevant to the subject. Then we tend to add more and more people. In many cases it isn't easy to follow an e-mail thread. Especially if you were added later. Once they are added to the list people cannot opt-out from it turning the messages into noise. On the other people who were not added to the thread and future employees have no way of knowing the discussion even happened.

WhatsApp too seems to be quite bad for this. We don't even have real history of it and we don't have the semi-public channels.

MS Teams is supposed to be a super-tool that might provide what we need but I don't have experience with it. I tried to show you how Slack has this. If you don't know Slack and would like to see it I can invite you to my Slack channel where we can see the features and figure out what can we do with our current tools.

Jira tickets have many of the features we need, but many of us feel that only bugs should be added to it and not conversations about various topics.

Confluence might be also good for this. Maybe documenting the results of a discussion.

What other communication tools do we have in the company that I've missed?

What do you think?

Published on 2021-09-30 by Gabor Szabo