3 Tools to Improve Team Communication

lumbergh“Didn’t you get the memo?”

First widely popularized by Mike Judge’s cult classic Office Space, the phrase ‘didn’t you get the memo’ is most often said to those who find themselves out-of-the-loop. The movie itself does an excellent job of illustrating how static and impersonal communication breeds dissatisfaction, distrust, frustration and can eventually engulf your office in flames. Of course not all team communication should be designed to constantly give a warm fuzzy, but by improving team communication and thus team collaboration, you can help avoid creating cultural vacuums that lead to disgruntled employees, stark internal hierarchies and many other problems in your office space.

How Better Communication Can Save Your Office

Thanks to teams of scientists working ‘round the clock and marvels of modern technology, the traditional memo has become a relic of the past, reserved for those governed by rigid communication policies such as politicians and lawyers. It can be said that the memo still survives somewhat within contemporary methods of communication such as email; however, we are referring to a style of communication that the memo was born out of: dry, impersonal, static, easily ignorable, and conducive to confusion.

At LeanKit we are all about helping teams discover simpler ways to get more done and continuously improve how they work together. Effective communication is one of the first legs on the journey down the road to improved production.

Here are three simple ideas that will help improve communication between team members, promote a company culture founded on collaboration, and reduce confusion & frustration.

  1. Team Stand-Ups – Stand-ups are quickly becoming standard practice in a variety of industries and businesses. The team stand-up can be packaged in a number of ways, from Daily Scrums to Morning Roll Calls. The brainchild of software development teams, anyone can benefit from a team stand-up meeting where everyone gets a say.

    The concept is simple: A short 15 minute meeting where team members participate in up-front discussions over what they did, what they are doing and any obstacles they may have. Set apart from status meetings, a stand-up communicates to the entire team what is going, how everyones work is related and how they may be able to help each other.Basically, it is a face-to-face team communication tactic that keeps people from working in isolation.

  2. Chat/Instant Messaging – This may be a no brainer, but some organizations cringe at the thought of giving their teams access to online chat tools. Though they can lead to some off-task behavior, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

    Using an online chat application makes communication more fluid and gives wings to collaboration. Chat allows real-time discussions to take place in a virtual setting, addressing topics that may have immediate importance or just need a quick one-off. It also provides a visual aid team members can use to see who is available to connect. Chat should not replace email, but it can act as a more effective and efficient communication tool when used properly.If you can get everyone to agree on one chat platform to act as a core tool for instant messaging, you will be surprised at how well your team collaborates and communicates on the fly.

    Here is a helpful list to get you started.

  3. Visual Online Project Management Tools – What better way to bring everyone in your team together for effective communication than putting all your work in one place. Visualization has always been a stimulus for communication and it works even better in a team setting. By illustrating your work as a whole online project management tools allow team members to see how their tasks play into a larger scheme. When work is consolidated, people will naturally unite around that work and want to discuss it. Envision it as the good ole’ water cooler, but instead of discussing last night’s Game of Thrones, you talk about work to be done for your new product marketing collateral.

    When work items are held up or not moving forward the first step in the problem solving process is getting everyone together, on the same page, with the right information. An online visual management tool does that and more. They provide depth and detail to the contexts of any conversation.Once you tie a visual management solution into your team stand-up and an instant messaging tool, your team communication will be pumping on all cylinders.

We have cruised by the ‘Age of the Memo’ on the seat of super-charged data bytes and streamlined digital devices. Our work culture has changed in ways that has intrinsically tied methods of production to more meaningful communication. Instant and personable communication is in. The static and that which is lacking depth is out.

The ability to chat with a team member fulfills our need for instant gratification and provides for easy updates without having to step into a meeting. Daily face-to-face interactions provide clarity to detailed problems and bring people together. Visual management tools create a team hub all communication is centered around and place direct accountability on work items, leading to productive conversations.

Chat, daily stand-ups and online visual management solutions are not only tools that can be used to improve communication within your team, but also help foster a healthy company culture that will keep everyone happy and may even prevent the office from burning to the ground.

Image from 9gag.

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