I’ve communicated with a lot of professionals in my short career. I’ve also spent most of my career working virtually, so I’ve got increasingly good at communicating. In some ways, my policy has become to over communicate.
If you’ve worked in any sort of communication role, either as a freelancer or within another business structure, you know the old game, “hurry up and wait”. When you’re juggling more than one project, this becomes increasingly problematic.
The key to any successful project is communication, that’s nothing groundbreaking new. Being able to communicate is one side of the coin. The other?
Regularity of communication.
This is often resolved by setting up regular meetings and/or calls. Anyone who’s worked with me in the past knows how much I hate meetings, and that’s only worse when it’s a meeting about another meeting. In every effort possible, I’ve implemented stand-up meeting policies. Part of the success of IndyHall has been our ability to move quickly. Our quick decision making came down to Geoff and I communicating regularly, but never for the sake of communicating.
This is tricky to describe: Geoff and committed to regular communication, in a less formal agreement to one another. The other part of the less formal agreement was to never bring something to the table that couldn’t be quickly discussed and decided upon, most of the time in under 10 minutes. Informally, we’d designed a stand-up meeting that we didn’t even need to come face to face for.
Communication happened often, and in short bursts of valuable, actionable information.
In between actionable item discussions was the other part of the overcommunication that’s often overlooked: status updates.
When working virtually it’s crucial to let your team mates know what’s going on, even in the briefest format. My friends at Wildbit have written some of the best stuff about this, from using twitter for the team to using commit messages correctly. No matter what tool or technique you use, there’s one core concept that I think is the most important:
It’s better to be on the communication offensive.
That is, if you’ve got information that’s valuable to the team, don’t wait to bundle it with a larger update or, worse yet, to be asked for it to give it up.
If someone doesn’t need the information now, they may need it later and rather than have to bother for it later, they can simply check past updates.
Also, a “small piece of information” may be critical to someone else’s to-do list and you may not realize it.
I’d make a sports metaphor here but I never claimed to understand sports.
Okay. I’ll try anyway. A core value of teamwork when it comes to sports: even if you’re all star, don’t hog the ball.
Get the ball across the court faster with efficient, regular “overcommunication”.
I can’t believe I wrote a blog post with a sports metaphor. I’m sorry, it’ll never happen again.
Redux, or the A.D.D. version of this post:
- Scheduled communication is good, but communication for the sake of communicating is a waste of time.
- Communicate early, communicate often
- Don’t assume information isn’t important for someone else to know
- Alex is allergic to sports and still can’t believe there was a sports metaphor in this post.