The core of how we will work together to evolve as an organization is by mastering asynchronous communications. This will allow for all of us to operate with agency while staying coordinated. The essence of good async comms can be distilled down to the methods of delivering information and the words themselves that are used.
Documentation First and Documentation Last:
In order to accelerate clarity, and make the most of the time spent coordinating with each other, everyone is expected to use documentation first. Some of the principal forms of documentation we use to coordinate asynchronously are.
- This Handbook
- Project Proposals & Discussion Threads
- Research docs
- Meeting Agenda frameworks
It is expected that before the onset of any coordination efforts, that a document in the form of a discourse post is created and surfaced to affected or interested parties in order to reference or make suggestions. A lot of work can be solved through discussion threads or inline suggestions.
The goal is to free yourself, and others from having a calendar filled with meetings.
In order to ensure that the results, insights, and opportunities from our discussions are not lost, at the end of every project, meeting, or research endeavour, you are expected to Curate insights and results back into a single source of truth in a way that is usable for the people that intend to leverage these insights. See “paying it forward”.
Using Words that Work
The framing of a problem or feedback is critical to the productivity of an engagement. We expect conversations to move naturally towards the intended outcomes without spiraling out of control. This can only happen with a dedication to being mindful of the words that you are saying or typing.
We are not here to censor your speech, but we’d rather spend our time co-creating than going in circles because of lazy language.
The principles of words that work are as follows.
- Don’t assume knowledge or awareness.
- How you define is how you are received. Avoid extreme or polarizing framing.
- Get the order right.
- Meet them where they are at. Speak to the person not to your expectations.
- Complete the conversation
EX: of BAD wordsmithing.
“This is wrong”
“I just don’t like this”
Pasting a link with no TLDR or explainer of how it applies
Long winded feedback & pontifications
EX: Of good wordsmithing.
“I’m having trouble with this because I don’t understand how X relates to the objective key result Y, can you clarify this?”
“Hey, I want to make a decision on X, Y, and Z. I need ____ to answer this question: _____”
Making suggested edits and then commenting the reasoning.
You don’t need to marry yourself to these examples if you understand the essence of what we are trying to avoid.
We want to avoid Lost in Translation, Up for Interpretation, Mis-managed expectations, and creating unnecessary work for others.
To learn more about our approach to asynchronous communications review the values section here.
What to do if a doc does not exist or is unclear.
- Quote the specific section is unclear, what is unclear about it, and tag the person with a great question that will clarify it for you.
- Suggest an edit that will make it more clear.
Meetings: Our Philosophy and Best Practices
Meetings are expensive
We must not let meetings replace good curation and documentation.
When we do meetings, they will always be preceded by a meeting agenda with a specific scope.
The meeting agenda will be presented in advance for folks to add thoughts or content that would accelerate the “get everyone on the same page” part that can typically take up time.
The meeting should be run by a dedicated moderator, who can politely interrupt and steer the conversation towards the results we want out of the meeting.
The meeting should have a dedicated note taker, whose written communication skills are up to par, because the meeting notes should be able to be referenced with 0 context.
The meeting should conclude with takeaways and actions items, which both are then curated back into their necessary Single Sources of Truth.
Read our “Moderating a meeting: Best Practices” here.
Moderating a meeting best practices:
- The person who called for the meeting should be the moderator
- The moderator should send the agenda in advance and ask for people to input their discussion points
- The moderator starts by briefly giving a background of why we are having the meeting and goes over the objectives
- The moderator then calls on the first person in the discussion points to start talking
- The moderator lets discussions happen and watches for people with raised hands, calls on them next.
- If a person is replying to someone, that person should have a chance to reply before the next hand raised goes.
- The moderator will politely interrupt, in chat or with audio if the conversation is going off topic or not aligned with the objectives
- The moderator watches the time, and lets people know when we should wrap up. Or asks if everyone is ok with going over.
- The moderator then wraps up the meetings by clarifying the takeaways, what are the actions items, and who will do the action items.
- That’s it!