I’m sitting in a small coworking space. My teams members are just a few steps or clicks away, and I know I could always reach out to them, whether it’s to ask about a task or how their weekend went. Although we communicate differently, we generally live by the same mantra - “take 5 minutes now, save 5 hours later”.
This is very far from a previous job, where all my weeks would begin and end with all-hands meetings, and no morning could be started without a daily scrum meeting. All these attempts to encourage discussion ended up strangling it. It was as if no exchange could happen outside designated times, much less if it went over those layers of company bureaucracy.
Imagine we’d be asked to produce color pencils and each team got assigned a different color. Most of the morning in my team would be wasted away discussing our blue pencils. If any team member found they had what it takes to start making green pencils as well, their drive would be immediately blocked. With so many layers, they’d not be able to reach out to the yellow team and ask for input. And we all know you need both blue and yellow to make green. What I’m trying to say is that there was no room to focus on our common goal.
Less chances for discussion obviously meant less chances to build relationships and trust with coworkers, and that ended up staining communication with customers or anyone who asked to learn more about that business.
If we go into business to find and keep customers, why do we make it so easy to lose touch? Seeing our company grow could make us find things easier, or value our own opinions more, relying more on our own experience of the product. The time spent developing new processes to guide team communication is doubled as we replicate them in our communication with customers. Sooner or later, the entire company complains about not being able to get actual work done, and there’s a shower of emails from confused and unhappy customers. It’s a startup armageddon!
Cutting our access to first-hand insight from customers and coworkers usually only makes “easier” painful. It turns work into a game of “telephone” where information gets lost too quickly.
The simplest changes can often be the most effective - eliminate the excuses and the process layers. Talk directly to a coworker who could help get things done fast instead of wasting time to plan and develop a new layer of process. Approach customers directly to get quick feedback and ensure the product truly resonates with them.
if we prevent ourselves from talking to our coworkers, how should you expect to help the company get good results? And realistically, how often do we create anything that immediately gets our mailboxes flooded with customer inquiries? If only we were so lucky! The time we spend contacting coworkers and customers directly is bound to beat the time we could spend looking at a spreadsheet or cleaning up your task tracker. Understanding whatever we’re missing now gets easier as we get exposed to different perspectives. An effort to actively engage in conversation with 100 customers will pay better and faster than emailing a feedback form to 1000 customers.
Don’t worry about analytics - after all, conversations with real people are still the best sources of data.