How to Intentionally Structure & Scale Company Communications

How to Intentionally Structure & Scale Company Communications

Modern knowledge workers increasingly spend most of their time communicating about their work rather than doing the work itself

A large part of knowledge work is communicating it in and between teams. This is a problem that companies of all sizes struggle with.

It is hard to do your job when the information you need to do it is scattered across a dozen different SaaS services (eg. google docs, confluence, jira, trello, etc). Communication apps are particularly notorious for this - unless you were present for the conversation, it will be hard if not impossible to find the details.

Levels Health, the company that published this week's reading series, came at this problem by removing synchronous communication for the majority of their discussions, choosing a durable asynchronous long-form platform instead. They also build up both a structure and a process for teams to handle requests and responses for information. The process Levels came up with around communication below (highlights my own):

  • Work should feel calm & controlled, and our tools and process should allow us to triage and maintain clarity into actions and next steps.
  • Relative priority should always be clear by creating distinction between communications that require reading, and those that require action (with a due date).
  • Communications should be discoverable and transparent. With a few exceptions, communication shouldn’t be siloed by team or group. This limits others’ abilities to work autonomously and discover context that may be relevant to them.
  • Communication should live in context, alongside the work being discussed. It should be compatible with how we get work done, written clearly, in long-form to prioritize asynchronicity and avoid the need for meetings to transfer information.
  • Channels and mediums should be standardized. What goes where and what’s expected from each channel should be explicitly defined. Requests for input or response are explicitly defined and tracked. Each team and individual should not need to reinvent the wheel or implement their own process for handling communication.
  • Response times & etiquette must be upheld. To avoid a world where everything must be marked urgent in order to ensure a quick response, we must trust that others will see our messages and respond to them in the agreed-upon time to unblock us to proceed.
  • Our tools will only succeed if we have a process and structure for using them effectively and consistently. A great tool with all the right bells and whistles but without adherence is not enough.

This process is not just a good set of principles around communication but managing information in general. Communication is just a special case of the latter (actually, all knowledge work is). While this article talks about the difficulties scaling up communication in a company, there is a more universal problem of managing knowledge in all its forms at scale. And this is a problem worth solving!