Regardless if you are a contractor or a client, working in remote teams with team members being distributed all around the globe, you have surely faced the issue of communication.
This issue is quite widespread, in my experience, and it cannot be boiled down to one single action, or even lack of aforementioned action.
Most commonly it is a question of: ‘How do we incrementally affect positive change in our communication techniques, as a group, so that the team can be more efficient?’.
In my experience, great communication = great results (company-wide) and this is why I felt it would be beneficial to share some examples of communication (be it good or bad - both inside and outside Upstack).
My goal is that those reading can see what Upstack has done to improve, and how simple measures can work wonders if they are well planned and implemented.
Examples of poor communication
- Why is this team member so slow in replying?
- How do I know what you have worked on today?
- This person on my team has missed several meetings, are they even working?
- Why don’t all my team members update me on their work?
- We have already worked on this task, you are duplicating our work.
- How can I trust someone which is located on another continent, in another timezone?
The above examples are only a short list, it could potentially be infinite, but these examples showcase some core functions of communication and the effects of poor communication within a team. You will also notice that I did not single out solely client concerns, but also team-wide concerns.
All of the examples mentioned have the potential to become disruptive, if not handled correctly, and disruption (although the term is currently used positively in certain contexts) will almost surely cause performance issues.
It is simple, at the end of the day we chose to work remotely because it breaks down barriers and allows us to be more efficient, throughout the board. So not being able to properly convey our message across, creates uncertainty, erodes trust and ultimately can be disastrous in remote teams.
What is communication?
Before we move forward and virtually brag about how Upstack has managed to overcome these, potentially disruptive, issues, it would be good to first define what communication is. Then we will look at how the factors which make up communication are used in a remote setting, while finally offering some advice and success stories from inside of Upstack and beyond.
Communication is an act, the act itself is simple: ‘transferring information from one point (group or person) to another (group or person)’. The act involves a sender, a message and a receiver.
From this sole, very simplistic, definition it is quite clear that communication is complex, it can be affected by numerous factors, which eventually contribute to the success, or failure, of the act.
Examples of factors:
- Cultural differences between those undertaking the act
- Emotions not being expressed adequately
- The cultural/organizational paradigm in which the action takes place
Communication can take a few forms, but let's focus on two of the main ones: verbal (face to face - even via web conference) and written communication. These are the most used forms of communication in remote teams and they form the backbone of our work.
Learning to be better at it vs. taking it at an art level is as close as the difference between a manager and a leader. So, where is Upstack now? How did we get it there? How are we using the "Upstack Manifesto" to bring out the real communication value in both core and client teams? What other tools are we using to constantly perfect our ways?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our "Communication in Remote Teams" series where we will tackle the above questions and not only.