Communication

Communication is key in every team and organisations as demonstrated by numerous practical examples and academic studies. David Lewis shows that internal engagement, i.e. merely how often people interact with each other, and idea flow over an entire organisation define group performance with 85% accuracy. Another study shows that in physical work places, employees communicate between 50-80% of their time. Lastly, McKinsey finds that at best practice companies, the best managers spend 60-70% of their time communicating with the team compared to average companies where managers usually spend half of that time communicating.

While constant exchange of information is guaranteed in physical organisations, for example next to the coffee machine, in open office rooms or during lunch, virtual organisations do not have these formats. That can lead to shrinking motivation because of lack of personal contact and interaction, output deficiencies or misalignment because of lack of exchange of critical information and people feeling undervalued because they have not been involved in certain decisions.

As a response to this threat, any virtual organization has to create respective formats. Firstly, physical retreats do matter and help especially in creating personal bonding between organization members. Many successful ventures emphasise how important culture and personal bonding is. Billionaire Ray Dalio describes in his book Principles how his team started because of that personal bonding. The entire team had rented an old farmhouse, which functioned as both their home and their offices. Bridgewater Associates, which has long been the world’s highest valued privately held company, survived because of this personal culture in its early phases, even though it is known today for its very rigid culture and quantitative assessment of every employee. Secondly, virtual team building exercises can be especially helpful to create a team spirit beyond physical retreats. That leads to friendships being formed. Friends do converse on WhatsApp and other social media channels, which in turn can create that exchange of information that would usually happen next to the coffee machine, in the office room or during lunch. Lastly, communication in general should be maximized. There should be a daily check-in, at least 2 hour response rates and daily / weekly group calls that ensure that information flows through the organization seamlessly.

There are many tools that can be used for your communication, but Slack has clearly been one of the most useful ones that emerged in the past. That is because it integrates automatically with project management software, allows to upload files and structures communication more effectively than WhatsApp. It combines the structure and storage of intranet tools and emails in large organisations with the efficiency and informality of WhatsApp. Note that Slack will either delete your messages gradually after your 10.000ths post if you do not want to pay. This is why it is crucial to have a good filing system in place.

Lastly, for the very beginning of a company, WhatsApp might be enough and Slack might not be the best solution to begin with, especially if none of the initial team members is used to using it. Once there are three or four projects you are running simultaneously and once different communication channels are needed, we do encourage you to switch to Slack.

Resources:

  • Check out the three resources on communication. The bullseye-principle is a great resource on intention-based communication; Klemmer and Synder show the importance of communication in work; And McKinsey shows the importance of communication in management [even though the report is about frontline managers, the principle applies nearly everywhere]
  • If you can make the time, read through Ray Dalio’s book Principles (2017).