A Much Better Way To Use Slack (and any collaboration tool)

June 15, 2016 Comments Off on A Much Better Way To Use Slack (and any collaboration tool)

The wrong way to use Slack is as a substitute for email.

This is when you create separate channels based around departments (usually with one general group for everybody) and tell everyone to participate there instead.

The benefit is now everyone can see, search for, and participate in discussions.

The downside is this becomes an overwhelming amount of information, it drastically increases the time spent communicating (this is not a good thing), and everyone is invited to share opinions regardless of their experience or expertise. Your decisions change to accommodate the opinions of people who shouldn’t be influencing the outcome.

A better way to use Slack is as part of an advanced collaboration process that cuts communication, not as a substitute for email that increases it.

Here’s how:

1) Create purpose-driven channels. Don’t setup static channels, use purpose-driven channels. Don’t have a channel for the sales team, have a channel for specific leads, clients, or goal. e.g. improving the sales pipeline. Don’t have a channel for marketing, have a channel for revamping the website.

2) Only invite people when they’re needed. Only invite people to join at the exact moment you need their approval, advice, opinion, or to perform a specific goal. Once they have performed that goal, they should leave the channel.

This is the hardest part. Most people like to see every project through and chime in on every subsequent action. Resist this urge. It leads to people in dozens of channels participating far beyond their qualifications. This means that you (yes you!) will have to leave channels frequently too.

3) Ensure all the information is ready for them. Before you invite someone, make sure they have all the information they need to perform the action you want. And make sure they only have that information. Remove the irrelevant files at this stage. You can drop them back in later. Make sure they work in shared google / dropbox documents linked to the channel too. Remember the principle, the right information for the right person at the exact moment they need it. Make sure you set a deadline for the action too.

4) Set the channel purpose to the next step needed. Set the channel topic to the next step required. It should be possible for your boss to jump into any channel and see what the next step is and what’s holding things up. Using Google Docs you should be able to see the very next word that has to be written. This will save you when people get sick, take vacations, or leave the company.

5) Integrate relevant tools. Using Zapier you can do fun things. You can setup notifications from Quickbooks when invoices go out or get paid. Or have emails from specific people or a client e.g. “from:@feverbee.com” go directly into the relevant channel when you’re on vacation (far more effective than an away message). Or include notification updates from Google Docs or forms. Or have new salesforce leads / prospects sent directly to a sales person. Or add actions to the calendars of colleagues.

6) Archive documents and close the channel. Once the purpose has been achieved, ensure the documents and discussions are archived in a shared folder and close the channel down.

When this system works well, it lets you coordinate tasks, track progress, reduce time communicating, and ensure your team are working to their strengths.

Remember the goal isn’t to increase communication, it’s to reduce it.

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