Controlled vs Spontaneous Communication

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We are living in strange times, and everyone is having to adapt during this lockdown. A lot of businesses are working 100% remote. During our working days, we have controlled meetings with agendas, and spontaneous unscheduled communication. It is the latter that will be most affected by moving to a 100% remote-first model. 

It takes, on average, 5 to 10 minutes to schedule an appointment. The default time set for a meeting in a calendar is 30 minutes. Now if we add those numbers together, we end up with 40 minutes. But we are not finished there! We also need to write up and share the meeting minutes, so let’s give that another 10 minutes. If the meeting is a recurring meeting, no further scheduling is needed, but if not we need to schedule the next meeting. 

Add all this up and we are at 1 hour, and this doesn’t take into account the interruption from the flow of work. Perhaps it takes another 10 minutes to refocus the brain between switching tasks. You also have to think about delays. From the initial thought to the scheduled meetings, you might be talking days or weeks. This does allow you to prepare, but it could delay decisions due to this prolonged wait time.

The question is can time be saved by avoiding scheduled meetings? What happens to the spontaneous unscheduled meetings in a 100% remote working environment?

In 2014, Peter Cardon and Bryan Marshall conducted a Study on The Impacts of Team Listening and Unscheduled Meetings on Team Coordination. They found that the frequency of unscheduled meetings increased team coordination but that the frequency of scheduled meetings did not increase team coordination. 

An unscheduled conversation could be a phone call, which gives empathy, but this is 1 to 1. Group conference calls need to be scheduled. You could open up a conference call meeting first thing in the morning and leave it open all day, but people would have issues around privacy and might feel uncomfortable. You could also set up a WhatsApp group and ask people to post voice notes. IT management and governance probably wouldn’t be happy with this approach and it’s not a branded environment. 

With companies going 100% remote the chance meetings in the office are no longer possible so we need to think of a new approach to how we can communicate spontaneously in teams. 

Watch and Learn gives you a Team Listening Environment through the use of video chat and voice notes. You can listen to your team without interrupting team members. There is much less friction with communication as no scheduling is needed. 

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Perhaps we need to encourage less controlled communication. Listening to your team on a daily basis can massively help with team coordination.


Reference: The Impacts of Team Listening and Unscheduled Meetings on Team Coordination Article in Studies in Media and Communication Peter Cardon and Bryan Marshall, 2014


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