Sharing as a remote team

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to balance sharing information across our team. When we first became a hybrid of remote and same-office, we made mistakes by having conversations face to face and not sharing them or involving the remote team in the decisions. To try to correct it, we went the complete opposite: making every decision inside of a Basecamp post. Predictably, this slowed everything down, creating an increased amount of noise and distraction for everyone involved. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that we’re all overwhelmed with news and posts and need some help. One person even wanted to take a Quiet Friday just to catch up! We needed to fix it.

I overheard someone on our team say that the best part of being here is that we have no silos. Decisions on product involve the input of anyone interested, regardless if you’re on the marketing team or the systems team, or anywhere else. That to me is some of the magic sauce, so when I had to figure out a way to reduce the distractions, I was really stuck.

I realized we aren’t actually over-sharing. Instead, we’re just over-notifying.

Do I request the team to post less, share less, communicate less? Do we have “quiet hours” with no email or newsletters where we combine everything into small chunks? Wouldn’t that change the entire DNA of Wildbit?

Our team is growing, not rapidly, but faster than it ever has. That naturally means there is more conversation and collaboration as people work together to solve problems. Some people want to know everything, and are able to organize their time to keep updated. Others don’t, and that’s totally ok. In my quest, I realized we aren’t actually over sharing. Instead, we’re just over-notifying.

With our Basecamp setup, each person has to choose who should be notified on a post. That decision is hard. So you end up sharing with everyone, hoping not to offend anyone by skipping them or miss someone who could provide input. You place the burden on your teammates to unsubscribe or ignore the post. What we were doing was causing email notifications to fly around to way too many people, creating homework to read all the news and posts to keep up.

To solve this problem, we needed to place control of notifications in the hands of each person receiving them, instead of the person posting. This removes the burden of assuming who wants to read the post and gives freedom of choice to those who are actually interested.

We started using an app called Honey where you have groups instead of projects, and each team member can choose which groups they want to be alerted on. Now, you get complete control over your inbox and how much information you consume. They even have Daily or Weekly digests settings for each group, so you may be interested in just the top posts for Marketing weekly, but want Daily posts on Engineering. We don’t post any less than we did before. We don’t share any less. Everything is available for all 24 of us if we want it. But if we don’t, each person can control it on their own. The shift in responsibility is going to take some getting used to, but I think it’s the first step in removing the noise of a growing, active team.

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