All company chat should be in public

How to make remote work a lot better, with a bit of an effort

September 9th 20212 minutes read

I'll try to convince you to ban all 1-1 and group chats for work-related matters in your company's communication tool.

It probably sounds pretty aggressive but honestly, it's not. People can still talk about their lives, worries, causes, etc, in their direct messages but not about anything related to the product.

Why?

You're leaving information locked behind

1-1 & group chats are not indexed. You can't reference any such discussion by a link in the future, and if the people leave the company, it's gone forever.

By posting every little discussion in the open:

  • You invite anyone to contribute to the discussion. They probably had context you didn't know, and you wouldn't have them invited otherwise
  • You are helping others understand why a decision was being made, even if you're not around
  • You are sharing product knowledge
  • You are transparent about the work you're doing

Discussing in the open keeps everyone in the loop. For now and the future.

You're not helping cultivate a culture of communication

If the majority of the communication is hidden in group chats & private channels, you're creating silos.

People will not feel confident discussing and raising questions in the open. If none is doing it, why would anyone risk making a "stupid" question for everyone to see? Better send a direct message, or just not ask it at all.

This right here is why managers think remote work isn't working for their team. People are making mistakes due to lack of context, are out-of-sync and generally, chaos ensues.

Foster a collaborative environment, where people are expected to communicate in the open and you will be surprised.

You might not need daily stand-ups anymore

By creating a culture of communicating, we don't have to waste everyone's time to see if anything is blocking their progress. What's the point to schedule a slot to announce that? Just write about it, and leave it for everyone to read.

Over-communicate. Ask questions, post findings, share progress in the open.

Boom, you saved 5 meetings per week.

Other improvements

  1. Enforce the same usernames across all applications. Reduce cognitive load, make it easier for people to ping you across Slack, Jira, Github, etc. Are you relaying messages from every service to your Slack? Enjoy the free cross-service ping integration
  2. Pay your services to allow indexing
  3. Use threads. Each discussion should be separate and self-contained. Be very strict about this
  4. Suppress notifications except direct mentions and threads. Periodically check your channels of interest, but only be notified of what matters

Fin

Communication is already hard, let's not add more roadblocks to it. Inefficiency makes people disinterested. Disinterested people make mistakes. Mistakes cause tension.

  • "Nobody cares, why should I?"
  • "Why didn't we think about this before doing X"
  • "We suck at communicating, let's schedule a zoom"

By putting discussions in the open, you document decisions and provide context for everyone to see. But that's only the start.

You cultivate a culture where people are eager to help each other, are proactive, and share.

Why not try this approach for a week?