Monday, January 25, 2010

Striking a balance between communication and inefficiency

A Little Less Conversation

I think this is a fascinating article because while I firmly believe in Brook's Law, I also have a strong desire to "keep everybody on the same page". I think this article is an excellent reminder to myself - go easy on the CC's.

When you started your company, you probably did a great job of communicating. Everybody told one another everything. And your customers loved it, because when they called in to ask about their purchase order, everybody knew where it was. But as you get bigger, you can't keep telling everybody about every purchase order, so you have to invent specific communications systems so that exactly the right people find out and nobody else. Not because it's confidential. Because it's a waste of time.

I firmly believe in this as well, as a general rule. Every action item should be assigned to a single person. Emailed questions should be directed at a single person. Once you email two people asking for information, they each think the other is going to respond and no one responds. This is not to say that people can't work as teams, but every team should have a specific person who is ultimately responsible - this is the only way to ensure accountability.

And on every project, assign one person to make sure that communication happens -- but only the right communication. Otherwise the team will just start having long meetings with everyone there and, frankly, people will socialize, and bloviate, and speechify, and argue about things they don't really care about just to hear their own voices.

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