Communication Breakdown, 2014 Style

The ability to communicate is one of the fundamental things that sets humans apart from other species. So it’s ironic that most couples’ counseling ends up in a discussion of “we just need to communicate better” and most postmortems on professional issues end up with “well, it was a communication problem”. 

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.  -George Bernard Shaw

In traditional corporate structures communication was very much a top-down process: executives wrote memos and expected underlings to read them. Today, with email and a trend toward more horizontal org structures, communication is much more likely to be 360-degrees.

But when 16 people are cc’d on every email – that just makes people go numb and want to kill themselves.

So we’ve gone from an era when many projects fail from undercommunication to a time when projects can fail because the team members are suffering from information overload.

Personally, I spend half my day just trying to keep up with my email inbox (Last week I also got several complaints that my voicemail was full. Sorry about that.)

We're on a campaign at Tivix right now to reduce email volume. Our general internal rules are:

  • Never use email to schedule a meeting (that's what calendar invites are for).
  • Never use email for assigning engineering tasks (that's what PivotalTracker is for).
  • Never use email for sharing project documents (that's what Basecamp is for).
  • Never use email for internal discussion (that's what HipChat is for).

Those four things decrease our internal email volume dramatically, making our team much more effective at doing what matters: actually getting shit done.