Good Communication Habits Become More Critical Shifting From Co-located to Remote
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
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).
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.
“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.”
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.