There are some things you want to communicate on, like quality issues or the next site for new construction. Then there are things you don’t want to communicate on.
The way many companies are structured (or unstructured) forces a large communication on non-essential things.
- Is there a meeting today?
- What type of inspection is needed for this part?
- When will the office be cleaned next?
- Did you complete the new supplier form?
There are hundreds of examples that I could list here. Each example represents something that seems small, and thus not included in the operations of the company. Yet its exclusion costs many hours over the course of a month or a year.
Items that do not require (or you simply don’t want to be bothered) communicating on can be standardized or systematized in order to reduce or eliminate communication.
Emails, slacks, and individuals stopping by for quick questions can easily add up to 1-2 hours a day between the question, the answer, any back and forth that occurs before or after the question, and the task switching time required.
This amounts to 5-10 hours per week, every week. That is an entire day lost, every single week of work! That compounds.
Some examples of what this looks like include:
- One meeting every wednesday at 9 - regardless of who is here or if there is anything to talk about.
- All parts are ordered with inspection type required as part of the order.
- Office is cleaned every 2 months on the first thursday.
Once you establish basic norms and stick to them to prove enforcement through action, you can move to establishing other ways of replacing non-essential communication with activity and tracking alerts.
Alerts and Notifications As Communication
For example, I don’t want to have to personally inform receiving everytime some type of shipment is arriving that is something other than an order (such as a sample, or part replacement, or a new gauge, or office supplies).
On the same note, they don’t want to have to waste time unpacking packages and trying to see what it is and where is should go. They have a lot to process, and walking up to the offices and checking with various people on who ordered the new thread gauge can be very time consuming.
So… we created a trello board where we can put what we are expecting. That alerts the shipping / recieving slack channel that we are expecting something.
When it arrives, they move that card to the received list, alerting us that it is in. The trello card also tells them who ordered it and what we would like done with it. The alerts and notifications save on non-essential communication and keep our work flowing.
Creating systems and processes around seemingly meaningless tasks and actions can greatly reduce a lot of communication.
Communication and Coordination
Communication is essential for coordination where there are no presets.
Coordination is required for people to get things done. A meeting of one isn’t a meeting. One person doing all tasks isn’t going to go very far. We need to coordinate.
Without communication, we enter into schelling points and waste a lot of energy and lose much of the coordination benefits.
However, communication has its costs too. So standardizing and creating systems is a way around that. It allows consistent and perfect coordination without requiring the time, energy, and attention of formal communication styles.
For many things communication is desired. However, for those smaller tasks that occur within a compnay, consider ways of reducing the non-essential communication.