Information overflow and communication efficiency is a growing issue for teams. We’ve all been working in a buzzing open space, surrounded by chatterbox colleagues, with a flooded mailbox and the company chat peeping every 10 seconds…
The real curse beyond information overload is its invisible and frenetic growth. Too often, people reply to emails by copying too many people, creating exhaustive mailing lists or accept recurring meetings that are not mission-critical (we all have a colleague that has 3 meetings scheduled in parallel in its calendar, or is completely booked from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm for the next 3 months).
Enjoying an environment free from the communication hassle, being able to focus and collaborating efficiently are the challenges for teams in the modern workplace. Managers should empower their team to set their own communication pace while minimizing information bottlenecks caused by the outside.
Best-practices on communication design
Based on our experience and Steerio teams, here are some hints to establish an efficient communication system in your group:
- To reduce unsolicited distractions that risk to cripple your productivity (work interruptions that tear us away from the focus zone), simply indicate that you currently do not wish to be disturbed by snoozing your notification and adjusting your status
- Involve your team in setting and structuring weekly touchpoints (e.g. Monday “Team briefing and weekly objectives” (30’); Tuesday “Product Sprint Review” (30’); Thursday “Customer and user feedback sharing” (60’); Friday “Weekly recap” (30’)). Set a touchpoint frequency that maximizes effectiveness where interaction is specific and clearly scoped (update, décisions, target setting...).
- Continuously adjust your communication style and ways of working according to the size of the team and your objectives. Multiple short and driven touchpoints will always be better a thousand times better than long and broad meetings.
- Establish a weekly “check-in/check-out” routine. Kickstart the week with a short briefing to sync everyone (objectives, priorities and critical info) in order to bring clarity and motivate the group. Conclude the week with a team review highlighting the key takeaways (results, achievements, challenges and key learnings).
- Transparently communicate progress and status updates on projects and map core processes. It enables each team member to easily access key information without disturbing others and avoid wasting time during meetings to bring everyone on the same page. Additionally, with regards to self management, monitoring and sharing its own progress nudges ourselves to be more efficient and productive (positive peer pressure).
- Brief people in advance of team meeting and avoid unprepared and ‘out of the blue’ discussions is also critical. Therefore, depending on the level of urgency, do not hesitate to quickly brief your peers with a short bilateral discussion. If the topic is les urgent, put it into the backlog for the next team meeting (but only if it is necessary to be discussed with the group).
- Take the pulse of the team on a regular basis (all it takes is 3mn per week of every 2 weeks), share feedback and iterate to make teamwork better. Tools like Steerio significantly improve communication, team alignment and the balance of the group.
Designing, shaping and tailoring team communication flows is a tradeoff between immediate information sharing and safeguarding high-productivity times. At the individual level, it requires to develop self-awareness and discipline. A great material to teach efficient communication is the Pyramid Principle from Barbara Minto, explaining how to share a message and an information efficiently. These principles taught at every top-tier consulting company such as McKinsey & Co, BCG, Bain & Co or Deloitte.