One of the biggest productivity challenges of an operation process is communication, especially the team’s internal communication. When a team does not have an adequate standard of internal communication, its customers end up suffering from the lack of standardization and delays.
In this text, we address some of the most common problems with teams’ communication patterns, their impacts on management and some tips for you to keep communication fluid and consistent.
Imagine the following situation: it is a busy afternoon at work, you are in the middle of your thinking process, solving a critical problem. Suddenly, your attention is diverted by a tap on the shoulder. One of your colleagues needs a simple explanation about a product code that you used in the report delivered a few hours ago.
Communication by interruption, dependence on the physical environment and lack of documentation, illustrated in the situation above, are just a few examples of poor communication.
Often, the necessary information is unavailable, inaccessible, hidden, there is no record of the operations performed. Who has never had to repeat the same information over and over in a support call?
Other symptoms of ineffective communication are:
Inefficient routines that “waste” time: objective meetings, that do not generate results or action plans;
Lack of operational alignment: “each one does it in a different way”;
Lack of process orientation and feedback: it is necessary to know exactly what is happening, what is the progress of the activities, in a practical and immediate way;
Isolation of people or teams;
Reports little accessed or not strategic;
Lack of standardization of demands: there is no centralized context, a single tool for task management and prioritization;
The “super-dependence” of the leader, which is triggered whenever a mismatch of information occurs.
For management, the main impacts are related to the inefficiency in obtaining and transmitting information for the operation. It is often not possible to query the numbers or progress of tasks in real-time or there are no ways to generate and distribute reports with the desired range. Other times, those responsible for certain processes are inaccessible or busy (they may have been interrupted abruptly a little while ago and will only be able to return to work within a few minutes …).
It is very difficult to make immediate tactical decisions and the manager may feel that it is impossible to meet even more demands, that there is no enough organization to grow the team, and that there is no hope of improvement in results, at least in the short term.
When the team is distributed the challenge is even greater! Much of the success of remote teams lies in the adoption of a good dose of asynchronous work, which is relying less on the availability of several team members while adopting more independent ways of working.
When we talk about “asynchronous work” we are also talking, of course, about asynchronous communication, or not depending on directly consulting another employee at that very moment. Asynchronous communication, in fact, is an extremely important resource for the agility of your operation, inside or outside the office.
To make it clear: teamwork still exists, but the information must be managed in a way that does not hinder the development of tasks. That is: the task is assigned to the employee who will perform it in a standardized manner, with clear prioritization criteria, all finalized prerequisites, the necessary information for the execution, documented and accessible.
Tasks “ready to perform”: this is an extremely important principle in this article because it speaks of a centralized context, unified information in one place (we will talk more about this “place”, below).
Adapting to this type of organization, however, usually creates difficulties: it is a change of habit!
Let’s recap some key concepts that will be needed here:
1. Asynchronous work (and communication)
2. Unified context
3. Task assignment and prioritization
4. Available information
All these concepts are very interconnected with each other so that we will address some important structures to the team and operations process in order to allow organic communication where the key concepts are represented.
Much of the success of remote teams lies in the adoption of a good dose of asynchronous work, that is: relying less on the availability of several team members while adopting more independent ways of working.
First, you will need to map your workflow, understand how requests are received and handled, which channels are used, who is responsible for each step, etc.
This is necessary so that you can find at least one tool in which you can reproduce a model of your process and also manage individual activities or projects. You can even select a set of tools that meets your needs, as long as everyone involved in some stage of the process has access to and can edit whatever is under their responsibility.
Through the process modelling tool (such as Pipefy or Trello), it will be possible to monitor the progress of demands, and this information can be made available to the entire team. For example, the implantation of the product in a new customer will be represented by a “card” and will advance through the model of this process, step by step, from “invoiced sale”, to “allocated deployment team”, to “information gathering”, so on. Each stage, in turn, must have defined the “necessary actions”.
For each “project”, or “task”, it will be possible to define the current status and previous actions, since most of these process management tools have an automatic or manual documentation system. All necessary documents and information can be inserted in the card itself, within the phase to which they refer, and will remain available for future consultations. It is even possible to automate the sending of communications, information filling and integration between the management tool and other systems (such as CRM and Marketing platforms).
In addition to clearly modelling and representing your process, you need to manage all operational procedures to be performed. Within a “project” or “delivery”, there may be several minor tasks to be distributed among multiple managers in the team. Therefore, it is also important to have a system that everyone has access to, for managing tasks.
The concept is simple: people need a channel where their tasks are concentrated in a standardized way, and with all the necessary context for the execution. From a final report on product deployment to an innovation project, the demands must be divided into units of similar complexities and assigned to the team, with a defined responsible person, through tickets, or cards, within the management tool. tasks.
In addition to being assigned to those responsible for the execution, there must be a clear prioritization criterion, and all information necessary for prioritization must also be available within the standard of the task card.
Only then will they be able to know “what” to do, in what order, “how to do it”, actions are already taken and other observations, will be informed the moment the task is ready to be performed, through the tool’s notification system, and will be able to report the completion of the task, continuing the flow.
It is important, at this point, to make a reservation: even in asynchronous work, it is possible that eventually operational impediments and between teams that prevent or paralyze the execution of a task. This topic will be addressed again when we talk about management routine, suggesting good practices for removing these impediments.
Another interesting communication resource of the project and task management tools is the possibility to “mark” another member of the team within the “card”. This means that the internal communication related to that activity is properly documented in the appropriate place, available to anyone with access to the “card”, in addition to generating a notification to the “marked” user, so that he/she can respond in a timely manner (asynchronous communication).
Anything that is not specific to projects or tasks, such as a spreadsheet with product codes, should be kept in defined repositories, organized in a structure that makes sense and shared with the responsible organization or sectors.
Adopting asynchronous communication is not an easy task, and difficulties can arise in the adaptation process. Especially when there is part of the team working remotely, “approximation” tools may be needed, which reproduce and enhance the synchronous communication practiced in the office.
Good examples are the Matrix, Discord and Pragli tools, which allow the creation of virtual “rooms” where users can simply keep their microphones open while working, sharing that environment with smaller teams or groups and being able to speak at any time.
It is also possible to use video call features like Meets, Zoom, Skype, for more punctual occasions of synchronous communication.
Another well-known resource is chat tools such as Rocket.chat, Microsoft Teams and Slack. These simple resources, in addition to bringing together synchronous and asynchronous aspects, often allow integration with other tools (such as those mentioned in this article), enabling more centralized communication.
Leaving the operation a little bit, the use of engagement tools such as Facebook’s Workspace can be healthy, enabling less “formal” communications and joint celebrations.
Speaking also of Management Routine, it may often be necessary to “force” communication and establish regular meetings at Daily Meetings. The purpose of this type of meeting is to provide operational results within the team, better control the day-to-day operation (finding and removing “bottlenecks”, for example), removing operational impediments and ensuring that activities are carried out in an agile. If well oriented to the process, it is possible that not everyone needs to speak. If asynchronous communication (“ongoing”) reaches a good level of efficiency, it is possible that “Daily” is not even necessary.
Just as daily meetings can take place, it is interesting to structure weekly and monthly meetings, to show the results of the period, align projects in progress, in a slightly more formal way, and strategic presentations that may involve management representatives who are not so close to the operational team.
These simple resources, in addition to bringing together synchronous and asynchronous aspects, often allow integration with other tools (such as those mentioned in this article), enabling more centralized communication.
Your operation is already structured in a good process management tool and your team already uses service tools so that you have data available for analysis.
These data must be made available in the form of meaningful information, that is, they must be treated and displayed according to some analysis logic that is useful for the diagnosis (and not just informative). The purpose of this diagnosis is to guide decision making through the correlation between data.
In addition to generating conclusions about the process, the dashboard should not take time to prepare or update so it is important that it is integrated. Another advantage of having your dashboard integrated is the possibility of consulting by the team itself (independent of the manager) and scheduling periodic shipments of data to anyone interested.
Finally, check out some good practices to improve communication:
Video calls with the camera on: non-verbal communication matters!
If one is “online”, everyone is: the whole team must have the same communication routine, only then will it be efficient (in addition to avoiding “isolated” teams).
Share your screen whenever possible, especially to keep the context of the conversation clear to all participants;
Document the activities in context: if possible, unify the documentation and use the same “card” in which the task is described, to report all actions and results.
Disable unnecessary notifications (especially when working remotely).
Give preference to “cloud” versions of the tools, accessible and automatically synchronized.