Your team is probably using Slack wrong

Most of the Slack installations we see at slash-hyphen make a big mistake. Instead of focusing on granularity and creating narrowly scoped channels, they create a few channels with too much noise.

Often, these noisy Slack installations have designed a channel taxonomy that focuses on teams rather than initiatives. Each of their channels represents a group of employees that work together closely without being tied to any specific project. In a poorly structured Slack install, channels encompass many initiatives and last forever.

In these less granular organizations, channels are defined by the people in a channel. On the other hand, in world-class Slack organizations channels are defined by the people and the topic. Rather than creating just one channel per team, every team ends up with multiple, narrowly scoped, channels.

Narrower channels are useful because they help to keep conversations focused. Imagine if every single email in your inbox lived in one giant reply all thread. That would be a nightmare. It’s definitely a mistake to start a new channel every time you would send a new email. Instead, many of the teams we work with start a new channel for every initiative a team is working on.

Separating your conversations into initiative specific channels makes scanning a channel list much less work. The separation also makes avoiding irrelevant conversations much easier for end users only interested in one project.

Just because you’ve moved to initiative focused channels doesn’t mean you don’t still need team catch-all channels. There will always be miscellany that doesn’t warrant its own channel. Teams need a place to prioritize current and future projects. A team is a social unit as well. Some members may want to share links and plan outings with the whole team.

This post is a part of a series on getting the most out of Slack. Next week, we’ll dive into strategies for facilitating conversations across teams. If you’d like to hear more, follow us on Medium or subscribe to our email newsletter.

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