While real-time, face-to-face interaction holds its value, the reality of modern workplaces often requires the utilization of asynchronous collaboration. When implemented effectively and combined with direct interaction, asynchronous collaboration can foster team alignment and improve overall efficiency.
As highlighted by GitLab experts, the purpose of establishing robust communication workflows is not an end in itself. Instead, communication channels and workflows serve as tools to enhance team performance by ensuring everyone is on the same page. Understanding when to leverage different communication channels and when to prioritize asynchronous over synchronous communication is vital for boosting productivity, particularly for agile teams.
What Are the Best Channels for Asynchronous Communication?
Asynchronous communication practices by definition do not rely on real-time, person-to-person exchanges. Instead, asynchronous communication relies on digital collaboration tools like intranets, shared docs, and chat tools. Confluence, for example, is often used by teams to solidify and optimize asynchronous communication. Through asynchronous communication, peers can communicate without needing to arrange any call, as they can access the full data and take the time to act upon it.
Some other examples of asynchronous communication include:
- Comments in shared documents
- Messaging in project management tools
- Timeline-like platforms with posting features
While it's true that the hybrid and remote work trends have turned the public spotlight on these practices, they are not new. Teams could always stay aligned outside of formal meetings, even when everyone was in a physical workspace. The famous "That meeting could've been an email" meme originated from a universal understanding of the need for asynchronous communication. It does not only tease the idea of someone wasting everybody's time but suggests that sometimes written communication can be the right way to go.
Advantages of Asynchronous Communication
Fewer meetings provide more time to actually work, but we are not encouraging you to stop having calls at all, as sometimes those are the ideal way to catch up. To maximize your team’s time and save everyone’s energy, it’s important to define when to use asynchronous (async) and when to synchronize (synch) live, keeping the latter at the minimum. We recommend an 80/20 ratio of async communication to meetings. You won’t only be freeing people's agenda but will also give them time to effectively answer open questions with the maximum attention and care.
With asynchronous communications, you want to make sure people understand that being connected to the corporate network or participating on a collaboration platform is not the same as working. This means that it’s important to establish and promote best practices so your team can make the most of their collaboration outside of meeting times.
8 Asynchronous Communication Tips to Bring Your Team Together
Based on our own experience and what we've learned from other organizations, we are sure that asynchronous practices can boost your team's potential in several ways. But of course, it always helps to have some best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of your strategy. Here are a few tips to make sure you get off to a strong start.
1. Maintain flexibility: No one should rush to execute any required action or give their input on an open asynchronous conversation. Give people some buffer to allocate the time they need for a task, and everyone will be more relaxed.
2. Set clear deadlines: To be flexible without hurting productivity, you must make sure people deliver their input at some point: Your customers can't wait forever for you to decide as a team. Prevent affecting your budget by establishing consensual dates of delivery and making sure everyone is aware of them.
3. Give time to get better input from peers: Giving your teammates the proper time frames to think will improve the quality of their contributions. Not only will they be able to reflect, but also do more research and adequately address the issue.
4. Open up information or problems to more people: Some people feel social pressure while live chatting in large groups. Some struggle just to say something, even if they don't believe in the answer, while others might want more time to think and return to the topic, and others may not even be looking at the chat in the moment. Creating centralized places that are easy for team members beyond your d your initial group to discover and contribute expands the reach of your conversation and increases the perspectives you can collect. For example, adding a topic to a Jira issue that anybody can check at any time could draw attention from a peer that's not directly involved but has useful ideas.
5. Keep documentation updated: For teams to effectively communicate, it's essential that they have a shared understanding of the basic facts. To achieve this, it helps to (a) have a document-sharing culture and (b) have up-to-date documentation. Documentation will most likely be specific (so readers can understand it) and have a date so the author can guarantee his peers are looking at the latest 'single source of truth'.
6. Use the right tools: You will need solutions to support async practices for remote teams. Project management software or cloud-based share points enable everyone to view projects as they unfold and stay up to date on the tasks that should be executed.
Before going overboard with your budget and acquiring lots of platforms, it’s important to conduct research so you can be sure of what your team really needs. You want to make things easier, and not overcomplicate workflows with too many new tools to master.
If you think your team is wasting their time with excessive status meetings, automating stand-ups could be another good asynchronous practice to adopt. If you’re already collaborating in Slack and want to adopt automated stand-ups, Asynchronous Stand-Up Bot will do the trick: With its fully customizable features and its ability to reach your colleagues to learn from their progress, it will become your best ally. The best thing is that it can work in different time zones to avoid disrupting your team. You can even get a stand-up bot for Jira that checks on your Jira issues for the improved follow-up!
7. Stay organized: Keeping delivery dates and documentation discoverable and up-to-date fosters a sense of overall order for your teams. It also makes it easier for newcomers to get onboarded and spot opportunities to study and improve processes as well, just to name some gains.
8. Overall transparency: All of the above points add to a rich climate of openness and inclusivity that improves teamwork and can help team members feel less alone when working remotely. Remember that inclusion is golden for teamwork. And what better way to make people feel considered than by giving them access to the information and tools they need to be awesome?
Asynchronous Communications Resources
Your organization may have already adopted some of these ideas, but it never hurts to audit your current practices and update them to keep improving.
We at Encora (an Atlassian Marketplace Partner) are passionate about this topic. If you’d like to learn more about remote collaboration, check out 12 ways to work remotely and still be present.
In the end, our best advice is to test what works best for you and to document it, so you can measure and understand how to improve, bringing more value to your team after each iteration.
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