INTERACTIVE COMMUNICATION

Good Communication Habits Become More Critical Shifting From Co-located to Remote

Replacing accidental with intentional.

Jason Yip
Jason Yip
Mar 21 · 2 min read
Communication capability = communication habits + what you get for free by being co-located

Good communication habits, that is, being clear, being concise, having a logical message structure, etc. are valuable whether remote or not, but remote makes them more critical by removing the ability to compensate by being co-located.

Replace implicit, non-verbal cues with explicit communication and intent

Implicit non-verbal communication vs explicit communication and intent

Non-verbal cues that are relatively easy to read in a co-located environment are more difficult to convey remotely. To compensate, remote requires:

  • More discipline and effort in verbal and written communication;
  • A greater reliance on assuming positive intent (receiver);
  • Expressing intent more explicitly (producer).

Externalise everything

“I’m glad we all agree” — picture from my ex-ThoughtWorks colleague Jeff Patton based on a picture by Luke Barrett we used to kick off Inceptions

People can’t read each other’s minds, especially with non-verbal cues missing, nor do they have unlimited working memory. Externalising means getting it out of our heads and into something we can all interact with. Words and pictures are better than just words. Logical structure, encouraged by collection templates, is better than freeform rambling.

Public silence means private conjecture

Borrowed this phrase from Basecamp.

“Why didn’t they mention X? It must be worse than we thought!”

“Public silence means private conjecture” essentially answers the question “why should we be transparent?” We should be transparent so that the organisational narrative — the stories people tell themselves and others why the organisation exists, what it values, what it does — is intentional, not accidental.

Direct communication over intermediaries

“Every hearsay hop adds static and chips at fidelity. Whenever possible, communicate directly with those you’re addressing rather than passing the message through intermediaries.”

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication

Every intermediary introduces opportunity for mistranslation

I normally think of disintermediation as shortening the gap between problems and problem-solvers but it also applies to peer-to-peer communication between problem-solvers.

Intermediation breeds mistranslation; mistranslation breeds errors.

YouMeUs

Focusing on life enhancing, highly effective communication skills

YouMeUs

The Medium publication dedicated to helping people discover beyond average communication skills. Your life is full of people. Make sure they get the very best of you, and you of them.

Jason Yip

Written by

Jason Yip

Senior Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

YouMeUs

The Medium publication dedicated to helping people discover beyond average communication skills. Your life is full of people. Make sure they get the very best of you, and you of them.