Nothing can muck up a project faster than poor communication. But how do you ensure everyone with a need to know is adequately and accurately informed, especially considering how technology has exponentially increased the rate that information is shared? Michael Pryor, CEO of Trello, a web-based project management application with more than 8.5 million users, has some ideas. Here are a handful of his suggestions on how to optimize your company's communication flow.
1. Update everyone in the company once a week.
Not everyone needs to know that Joe the Developer fixed three bugs on Thursday, but it would help to know that the support team received a significant uptick in customer inquiries about a particular feature. This weekly update doesn't have to be work-intensive. For example, a performance management tool called iDoneThis can email everyone in the company, aggregate replies about the issues that are important for others to know about, and send a summary to all employees.
2. Hold a monthly town hall meeting.
It's an effective way to iron out persistent and distracting issues that people are thinking about. A companywide meeting is a good idea even if there aren't major issues to discuss. "It gives us an opportunity to do a little pep rally and allow people to get excited about the things that are coming up," he says.
3. Don't be afraid to let employees work remotely.
Fifteen years ago as one of the only pure software companies in New York City, Fog Creek Software (Pryor's other company which spun Trello off last year) had an easy time recruiting developers. Today, there are infinitely more tech companies for programmers to choose from so many of the people Trello hires work remotely from places such as Minneapolis, Honolulu and Rio de Janeiro. It's a smart recruitment strategy-of the couple dozen Google Developer Experts in the U.S. (a distinction bestowed by Google upon stellar Chrome or Android programmers), two work at Trello.
4. Empower employees with technology.
"Over the last five years or so the tool set for working remotely has gotten really good, and probably will move almost all the barriers that used to exist for remote workers," he says. Check out Slack for team collaboration, HipChat for group chats or Google Hangouts as an alternative to Skype video calls, although Trello uses a simple GoToMeeting to bring remote workers into a conference room for something like a monthly town hall meeting. Just make sure everyone working remotely has a good headset and camera.
5. Optimize your meetings before you hold them.
In other words, don't waste the time you have blocked off for a meeting doing things that can be done outside a meeting. Here's where Trello is a useful tool. Not only can you hold meeting attendees accountable for checking various project statuses online before sitting down in a meeting, it has a voting feature you can use to garner opinions electronically instead of in person, which often can be a wordy and time-consuming affair. "Some teams even use a dedicated Trello board to track meeting discussion points where teammates can add cards to a list of items to discuss," he says. "Sometimes discussion on a card replaces the need to bring something up to the entire team before a meeting, freeing up time to focus on more important matters."