The new hero: Asynchronous communication
Technology has disrupted almost every field out there, but the way we talk to each other hasn’t evolved…yet. I mean talking, conversing, or communicating with spoken words.
At Front10, the team works from different physical locations. Sometimes when addressing complex issues, it is hard to synthesize reality. We felt we were wasting time in meetings, videoconferences, Slack, phone calls, synchronous communication, etc. So we started to push for writing and sharing memos — asynchronous communication — as a tool when dealing with important and complicated problems and solutions. Below you will find some pros and cons that we have learned.
- More comfortable to put things in perspective, be precise, and avoid confusion and miscommunication.
- Everyone would have the chance to build and edit her/his idea or opinion with a fresh mind. They are going to be able to access the memo “later” and give feedback when they are ready.
- It helps to avoid interrupting people (co-workers) and killing their workflow and productivity.
- The brain is not good at remembering what it hears; it’d rather see. So you can use images, graphics, or even a quick drawing to communicate an idea better. “I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember” — Chinese proverb.
- It’s going to be easier to walk a new staff member (or someone unfamiliar) through a lot of relevant topics; those that are already documented!
- Excellent for remote work companies with multi-lingual team members or clients, who are often also in a different time zone.
- Avoid “losing” relevant information in chats, Slack, etc.
- We read faster than we talk. The average rate of speech for English speakers in the United States is about 150 wpm. However, the average reading speed of most adults is around 200 to 250 wpm.
- Not applicable if an “urgent fire” comes up, in that case, feel free to do a quick call, video, meeting, etc. Go synchronous! e.g., Urgent customer requests.
- Not ideal for small teams.
- It takes some time to build a memo. In the short term, it might slow you down.
Finally, there are a good number of tools that can help us with this approach. At Front10, we instead use Basecamp, Confluence, Trello, and sometimes even a simple Google Doc will do the job. The bottom line is, often with a complex decision, it is more advantageous to write the idea up, share with every relevant person, and then wait for their input. Make it asynchronous!