Team Efficiency in Hybrid Settings: Choosing the Right Communication ChannelsJun 22, 2022
By Stefano Mastrogiacomo
The era of remote teamwork is not only here but evolving rapidly, demanding teams to flexibly switch between communication channels and platforms.
However, multiplying communication channels is futile if not utilized effectively. A glaring problem is wrong channel selection - choosing the wrong channel, at the wrong time, for the wrong task. This can manifest in various limiting "workplace ideologies" such as a zero-office company, zero meetings team, lovers or enemies of Slack, or an everything-on-Zoom approach.
Each communication channel has its merits and drawbacks, making it crucial to strategically use them to reap the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls.
Common Mistakes in Channel Selection
Solving Complex Problems with Messaging Apps
A first bad example is solving complex problems with messaging apps. For example:
@Ann, @Bob, @Cliff: The client is requesting new features by month-end. Urgent. All documents are on the shared drive. Thanks.
Complex problems like starting a new activities and projects require extensive information exchange and team interactions. Messaging apps often lead to incomplete information transfer, forcing team members to fill in the gaps, resulting in perception gaps and snowballing of minor issues into unmanageable problems.
Hosting Online Meetings for Simple Updates
Bob: This week, no workload problems, quality tests performed, project on schedule. I'll go through the checklist: 1…, 2…, 15…
Ann: We're working on the final sketches. As seen on my shared screen, the top navigation is complete, and we're starting to fill in the content. Let's review the 10 sections: ...
In the first example, reading the information in a status report would have taken 5 minutes, whereas the meeting lasted one hours with no participant engagement. Consequently, cameras were turned off, resulting in a screen filled with black squares and initials.
The Key: Smart Channel Selection
These examples illustrate what we call wrong channel selection. Smart channel selection involves using high-bandwidth channels for complex problems and low-bandwidth channels for simpler ones. It's crucial not to reverse this or restrict yourself to a single channel.
Complex Tasks: These necessitate extensive team coordination, information exchange, and alignment on roles, timelines, and collaborations. High-bandwidth channels, such as face-to-face and video-conferencing, are ideal for these tasks as they facilitate better communication compared to asynchronous channels like messaging apps or email.
Low Complexity Tasks: These require minimal coordination, making low-bandwidth channels like messaging apps and emails perfect as they offer flexibility for team members to manage their time efficiently without unnecessary interruptions.
Smart channel selection guide for hybrid teams.
Add Visual Facilitation for Even Greater Efficiency
Selecting the appropriate channel is just the beginning. Incorporating visual facilitation can further enhance efficiency. Combining video-conferencing with digital whiteboards and visual tools can significantly improve meeting efficiency by focusing the conversation, actively involving participants, and producing tangible deliverables.
For example, the Team Alignment Map and Team Contract are invaluable tools for planning innovation sprints or initiating new projects.
The Team Alignment Map is a co-planning tool: plan the work, allocate resources and reduce projects’ risks as a team.
The Team Contract helps define the team rules and behaviors.
When integrated into digital whiteboards like Miro or Mural, team members can collaboratively plan activities, negotiate resources, and define team rules, regardless of their location.
Remember, your team's success is contingent on effective communication. Make the smart channel choices and will propel your team efficiency to new heights.
Clark, H. H., & Brennan, S. E. (1991). Grounding in communication. In Perspectives on socially shared cognition. (pp. 127-149). American Psychological Association.
“It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done”, January 2021, https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/us-remote-work-survey.html
Media richness theory, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_richness_theory
“You Waste a Lot of Time at Work,” Atlassian, https://www.atlassian.com/time-wasting-at-work-infographic
Icons by Severine Assous. Illustrissimo.fr