As your organization grows and operations become spread out, communication acts as the key to ensuring that teams and projects are aligned. Good communication signals maturity, and setting your team up with set processes that nurture this practice will prevent unnecessary stress, outages, and distrust.
A Journey to Communication
Thinking back to when you first started our in your career, it’s likely that you were hesitant to bring problems into the open for everyone to be aware of; it’s a difficult thing to do, and if there’s a chance you can solve it on your own, it may not seem like it’s worth mentioning lest people blame you. But as you grew into your role and became more of an authority in your company or field, it became easier to talk about challenges or issues when they arose. Instead of something to fear, discussing problems in a way that opens up a conversation about strategy, planning, and future prevention becomes far superior to simply covering them up and hoping for the best. The same is true at the company level, and at a certain point, as more team members come on board and the stakes become higher, it’s no longer feasible to (effectively) work without clear communication.
Evaluating Your Organization
Take a moment to evaluate your current organization’s level of communication. It’s a journey, and many companies begin with a baseline sentiment that unless it’s impossible to fix or hide, it isn’t going to be discussed. This leaves room for other problems to manifest themselves since it’s difficult for an outage or other incident to go unnoticed. So instead, each person discovers the issue independently and asks the same questions: Does someone know about this? Is something being done to fix it? What is the plan going forward? The result is the same conversation, over and over again, among employees and teams trying to find out who is on the same page. Getting in front of the problem by announcing it and letting everyone know that a solution is being worked on means there’s no wasted time trying to come up with an answer that is already known.
Distribution Groups for Communication
Moving past confusion and a lack of formal information distribution, essential communication can be achieved through Slack or group email. This is where most startups begin their communication journey and only requires ad hoc messages when an incident that people should know about is in progress. The act of assuring everyone that a problem has been reported and is actively being worked on goes a long way in saving employees the time of going through a discovery process independently, which is often followed by a needless check that their own projects haven’t been disturbed.
To optimize even further, introducing a distribution group that people can opt into or out of as their communication needs change will allow everyone to own their knowledge and take control of the areas that are most relevant to them. This self-subscription model means that each individual has the opportunity to balance their notifications in a way that works for them and makes the job of you, as the sender, easier since you can trust that everyone has the information they need.
And as a final note to include as you implement distribution groups, take the opportunity to also communicate company-wide priorities and OKRs. Each team has its own dynamic and goals, and individuals may have projects they’re passionate about that don’t fit into this quarter’s objectives. Give everyone a look into global targets so they can align their own goals to match the organization’s, maximizing their impact and pulling everyone in the same direction.
Creating a Live Site Incident Process
Another aspect of communication, which still isn’t quite standard practice even among larger companies, is the concept of alerting people when an incident is in progress, even when it isn’t your fault. If a vendor solution has gone down that affects your tool and your users, strive for a process that lets the affected group know what the situation is and what they can expect as it’s resolved. This is a significant exercise in trust-building that helps organizations know they’re heading in the right direction with their growth. A solid live site incident process sets you apart from others and lets your users feel secure that they are always in the loop regarding their own operations.
Scheduling a Release Process
One final practice for your communication, which every organization should aim to implement, is a proactive protocol for how to handle releases that might cause future issues or incidents. This is necessary both for external announcements and for internal events that impact multiple departments. Whether it’s an update you’re pushing, a new tool you’re integrating, or any other change that has a potential widespread impact, there might be teams that have dependencies on your work that you aren’t aware of. Without proper notification, systems may break that could have been prevented if the team had a chance to assess and prepare. By adopting a proactive release process that broadcasts what will be happening, downstream impact can be assessed and employees can better understand and predict the impacts that could arise.
While communication should be frequent and clear, over-communicating can be counterproductive and should be avoided. If you’re wondering if something should be shared with the team, then the answer is likely yes. But, if it only affects a limited number of people, then consider sharing it only with them as an announcement. Make it public knowledge by including it in your Demand Central’s tracking of outages and incidents, but unless it’s had an impact, there usually isn’t a need to put out a widespread alert.
Overall, communication is one of the necessary stepping stones to building a trusting organization. Heavily connected to transparency, it allows the relationships you have with your team members, customers, and investors to flourish, and prevents challenges that arise with fragmented visibility. The more effectively teams communicate, the more everyone assumes the best intentions, and everyone can rest assured that you’re working towards the same goal.
If you’re interested in learning more about proper communication through notifications, set up a demo with Stack Moxie here.