On communication and structure

Having worked in small, startup environment in the last 3 years, I fee like I’ve learned a lot about the basics of successful communication and information flow in a company. Here are some guiding principles that I’ve found useful:

1. Communicate early and often

This one seems obvious, but I’ve experienced people only communicating when a problem has already happened. I suggest following up with your team/colleagues/supervisors weekly on what you’ve achieved, what you’re working on, what you need help with, etc. Create a template and just send it out once a week.

Taking a lead is great, but not if you’re keeping everyone else in the dark.

2. Be brief and clear

In this age of global and remote work, you’ll often find yourself working with people for whom English is not a first language. A few guidlines that I follow to deal with this:

  • Write the shortest sentences possible
  • Avoid passive tense – you’re not writing an academic paper
  • Avoid jargon when working with cross-functional teams, you want to be understood
  • Communicate with a purpose – if you’re sending an email, state clearly what you want and what the goal of it is

If you’re having issues with a particularly complex piece of writing, I suggest using Hemingway to keep it short and to the point. I’ve used it myself for writing customer support articles for an international customer base, and I’ve found it incredibly useful.

3. Find a balance for structure and processes

This is a tricky one. Essentially, you don’t want key information to get lost in the chaos, but you also don’t want to end up spending most of your time building a bureaucratic mess that prevents people from getting things done.

In my experience, when you’re just starting a company, aim to hire people of the highest caliber, as those kinds of people exhibit leadership and can get things done without a strict structure in place. Eventually, you’ll start hiring people who need a good process to be productive, and your company will naturally grow to a point where you want things to be defined. At that point you want to dedicate some time in establishing proper processes – and by proper I mean the least restrictive and burdensome as you can. Above all, don’t be a paper pusher, and don’t ask others to be either.

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