How Our Team Became More Productive With Slack Bots (And Killed The Team Nag)
Nobody wants to be the Team Nag.
The Team Nag’s sole responsibility is to badger the team to do the small but oftentimes important tasks that keep a project running. The problem with being the Team Nag is that it means wasting time sending too many emails and wrangling people to do minuscule tasks. The transformation into the Team Nag happens slowly, like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, until suddenly you’re sending passive aggressive emails late at night and people are avoiding eye contact with you in the communal kitchen. Nobody likes the Team Nag, and nobody likes to be the Team Nag. Everyone loses.
When I found myself slowly metamorphosing into this awful beast, I knew there had to be a way to automate these gentle nudges. As a Senior Product Manager at Dow Jones, a large chunk of my job revolves around managing my dependencies, and these are usually people providing their insights and updates before meetings. I knew I needed these insights, but in a company as fast moving as Dow Jones, it was difficult for my colleagues to remember to fill out their documentation.
So, I did what all tech savvy people do when looking to limit their daily human interaction — I made a robot who could do it for me.
Our team uses Slack, and one of the things the service provides is the ability to send yourself or other members an automatic reminder for anything — important meetings, to-do items, or even motivational messages. These messages come up as friendly Slack bot reminders for the entire channel, which means I no longer have to be hunting for updates on a project.
The first project I used a Slack bot for was for our team’s work to determine the viability of the WSJ Facebook Chatbot. This required insight across multiple teams into a single Google Slides deck, and setting up a weekly reminder with a link from Google Drive that leads users to the slides or deck that needed to be updated. Everyone was notified and were actually more responsive in updating the documentation than when they were badgered. This was due in part to people being able to update the documentation at their own pace and, in some cases, doing it before the Slack bot triggered, like a game.
After that win, I rolled out this same process for the Adtech Team for our weekly 5.15s, which are company-wide status updates all teams prepare for our executive teams. In our team channel, the friendly Slack reminder pings everyone with the Google Drive link to update the document. This has replaced a calendar invite for the team, meaning one less block on everyone’s already-packed calendars.
The next steps for using this automated process is through a channel that we put together called the “Accountability Channel” — a dedicated Slack channel for our team to help us stay accountable for our personal OKRs for the rest of the year. This chat is not made to be social, but rather for people to set up reminders for themselves to do their personal OKRs. Writing this blog, for example, was one of my reminders. It provides a public space for support and accountability, in addition to the automated reminders so everyone can be aware when tasks are complete and to check in when they’re due.
Has this been successful? Well, this blog did get written and nobody had to be the Team Nag. Seems pretty promising!