Keep everything short and help people to help you are the best lessons we learnt working as a team.
When we started this project, we were two. I remember calling my friend that night: “hey, I talked to a friend of mine and he really thinks this idea isn’t that bad and he encourages us to try so why don’t we try and by the way, this guy is super awesome because he’s been to YC and his company is so cool and I learnt so much omg you got to meet him and also when we start, let’s really try to make things fast and why don’t we start going to IKEA and make a first prototype and try to sell it instead of trying to build anything fancy?”
Haven’t read the paragraph above? Well, I guess my friend didn’t listened neither. Because I had to re-explain everything the next day.
The good thing is I worked my friend for a while now and we faced a lot of challenges over the year.
One thing that was very clear to us immediately when we talked about starting something together was: we suck in communication.
Of course, we didn’t know how to improve our communication (otherwise, we wouldn’t suck). But we know the symptoms:
- no history or whatever we’ve done
- going back and forth on ideas we discussed already
- fighting for things we actually agree on
- assuming the other one is doing something when the other one assumes the same
- debating instead of talking
- diverging a conversation and lose track of the initial point
- having long meetings
- making a committee instead of taking decisions…
So we decided to fix some rules:
- No more than one meeting a day and each meeting should be done in less than 5 min: if somebody spends 5 min to ask a question, then he doesn’t have answer
- Use email to ask quick questions: should be in the length of a tweet
- If the question in the email is too long, then write two emails with two questions
- If it’s an idea, we have an internal blog (tumblr), write it down and use appropriate tags
- Use the correct channel in Slack: CRM, Sales, Dev-Web, Dev-Kit, Marketing and Finance and keep it short
- If it is something that is “good to know”, then use the General channel
- If it is something unrelated to the project, then use Random channel
- If something is urgent and only if it is urgent (= cannot wait at all), use SMS or call the person
- If help is needed, create a task and assign it to the person with clear indication of what, when and how
- Make sure that the person who is assigned the task, or who’s helping, has all the context and the tools to succeed
Of course it was hard to follow these rules. But the good thing is we wrote that and made sure we both know about these rules all the time, so every time we were spending too much time talking or arguing, we stop. With time, we learnt how to respect these rules naturally.
By forcing ourselves to be ridiculously strict in our communication, we also learnt how to do things more efficiently. For instance, when we are blocked, instead of crying for help, we start thinking about how we ask for help so this one can actually help us. And by thinking like that, very often, we find the solution ourselves.
Another good point is by keeping things short, we really force ourselves to think about the core value all the time. What do we really want to communicate? What do we really want to ask? How much context is really needed? What context is shared and what’s not?
And for months we worked like that.
Then, people joined our adventure. They liked the product or they liked the concept and they wanted to help. And we let them help.
It was amazing.
Because everything was documented, written, tagged, simple and short, new people can instantly start working and producing value.
We are so used to be short and action-oriented, we could easily explain what are the current challenges and what are the tasks we focus on. We spend time explaining the context and then, everything is natural because by design we made all the objectives very clear and driven.
The best of all: the only time we meet face to face is to have dinner together and other hobbies!
I don’t know if I became a better communicator, probably not yet. I still like to take my time and tell stories. But instead of distracting my team, I opened a Medium and write for people who wants to read!