State Officer Blog: Effectively Streamlining Communication

Joshua Famous's picture

With just about two months until the Regional conferences, it’s important to ensure that all your teams are in a steady rhythm of productivity to be on course for their deadlines. As a software developer, my world consists of efficiency, optimization, and organization. It becomes infinitely easier for teams to match progress goals and work independently if they have a well-structured organizational framework backing their progress measurement. The result is a more complete and functional final event, more time for refinement before the conference, and the invaluable experience of functioning effectively as part of an accomplished team. None of this, however, is possible without one crucial first step - communication.

It would be terribly unoriginal of me to say that ‘communication is key’, so I’ll add an adjective and make it my own - ‘effective communication is key’. I could use a verb too - ‘streamlining communication is key’. What I mean by either of these two modifications is that simply having communication is not enough for an operative team. Creating a Google Hangouts is an ineffective communication solution if team members do not use the app, or do not check it, or do not take the time to respond to messages, or cannot send vital files. In a case such as this, the team has failed to streamline their communication.

Effective communication necessitates a medium in which all team members have easy, comfortable access to all exchanges, are familiar with the program, can keep lasting records of important conversations, and can interchange any special file formats necessary. Take Snapchat for example - while it may be incredibly convenient for teams, not all messages are permanently saved. There is no way to differentiate between more and less important messages. You cannot send large file types and there is no integration with other services like Google Drive. Google Hangouts is very well integrated, it has an app which allows for notification and quick response, it has a call feature (just as Snapchat), but if members are not willing to commit to it, then it’s not right for your team.

Other solutions, such as those implemented by my chapter, include Discord and Slack. The two are team-oriented communication hubs with channel functionality. Each has massive cross-platform functionality and integration with various outside applications. They rely on a channel model, allowing for a spam channel separate from team channels, allowing for organization of communication - the value of which should not go overlooked. Slack, on the free plan, saves the most recent 10,000 messages and allows for starring and pinning of messages, and supports a wide variety of files. But again, if a team is not willing to commit to and cannot become familiar with either of these applications, they are probably not the right communication solution for your team.

The medium of communication is not the only consideration in optimizing a team. Methods and procedures can further support the communicative interests of your teams. In the world of software development, there is an organizational framework called Scrum, which involves a so-called ‘daily stand-up’ or ‘scrum update’. The concept is incredibly simple - at the end of each day every team member gives an update on their progress for the day. Each day at 7pm, my Google Calendar reminds me to do my daily stand-ups. It takes less than five minutes and opens visibility for the team on exactly what their teammates have been doing. There is no shame or harm in simply saying “No progress” for your daily update - obviously you cannot make a contribution to every event every day. The point is that after day seven, eight, nine, ten of “No progress”, you should start to realize your faux pas, especially given that you’re reporting so to your entire team.

If you’re looking to propel teams to a higher level of competitive success and maximize productivity, an iMessage group will not fulfill all the needs of the team. It is unreasonable to assume that all business of a team can be transacted in person, and unwise to limit the team’s potential by constricting communication with incompatible communication channels. Given the examples I provided, along with the boundless suggestions of omnipresent Google, I encourage you all to carefully assess whether or not your teams have effectively streamlined communication. After all, communication is key.

Sincerely,

Joshua Famous, PA-TSA Sergeant-at-Arms