Synchronous Communication is the New Cocaine in Silicon Valley
from Paul Graham
beautifully articulates why meetings kill productivity for people in the "maker's schedule":
When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.
Meetings and Video Calls are great for tasks that require instant decisions. However, most meetings in large companies can be replaced by effective documentation, well-written emails or small visual clips.
"Study after study after study into remote work has made one thing clear: Remote workers are more productive than their office-bound counterparts." (source)
The article linked above argues the case for asynchronous communication as a critical contributing factor to the increase in productivity seen in the world's growing remote workforce.
Today's synchronous (real-time) communication tools and methodologies are increasing your company-wide anxiety quotient.
- How many times a day are you obsessively checking your email, or Slack?
- How many times a day do you use the phrase "Sorry for the delayed reply..."
- How many meetings are on your calendar?
- How much time do you waste answering repetitive questions, asked in different formats, by different colleagues, on different communication platforms?
Real-time messaging is for quick updates; as the team grows, it invariably becomes chaotic and shallow. Is your real-time messaging tool preserving history, making it easy to track new tasks or old decisions? How many messages have you missed on Slack today?
Silicon Valley and the culture of having meetings from morning to evening is the top reason why startups have stopped innovating.
We are not producing disruptive technologies. The slow, incremental pace of progress—not to mention the useless social software decade—has pushed us far back in the innovation spectrum.
Asynchronous Collaboration at workplace = Happier and Productive Employees!
Async communication is necessary for modern, distributed teams. It focuses on making sure that a collaborative task is executed without a lot of meetings. Please do not send one-liner emails or a slack message to report product issues. Create a video clip and highlight the exact issue with all the details on internal tools to avoid back and forth with your team.
Here are some great examples of where async communication would be more beneficial than synchronous messaging:
CEO to HR: "Can we answer 80% of the new-hire questions with already recorded screen-clips, videos, and effective documentation?"
Developer to QA: "Can you please share the exact steps to reproduce the problem? I don't see it on my machine."
Product Manager to Developer: "Can you please explain how to use the new feature. The documentation is not clear."
VP Sales to Customer Success: "Can you jump on a call to understand the customer escalation. Please document all the details and open a ticket."
Developer to Offshore team: "Can you upload the screen clip for every failed test case for the new feature?"
Sales to SE: "Can we send the customer a video clip of the new feature he requested last month?"
While there is no doubt that remote teams will build the future of software, I feel that asynchronous communication is also an important factor in generalized team productivity, whether your team is remote or not. If you are replying to every email and slack message right away, how will you get time to "produce" software products?
It's simple. Time is a zero-sum game. Once you and your teams realize and respect the scarcity of time, you'll all be more productive.
My assertion is that fewer meetings, more asynchronous communication, and focus on real work should be the mantra of next-gen startups.
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