Effective Communication for Remote Organisations

By: Kevin Steel

Hey Everybody, 

It’s been a busy month for me working on some new client proposals, and in addition, the temperature here in Scotland has dropped dramatically, so I’ll warm your hearts with a new blog post.

Today I’m going to speak about effective communication for remote organisations, and we will cover the following topics:

Clear Communications Document (CCD) - how this can instantly improve culture and communication

Knowledge Management - using Notion to manage knowledge effectively

Slack/Teams - what core channels & apps to use

SOD & EOD - daily check-in method for increasing transparency and accountability

Weekly Team Meetings - the importance of these in a remote organisation

Without further ado, let's dive straight in πŸ‘‡

Clear Communication Document (CCD)
As humans, we tend to build things up in our heads that are often not true. You might send a detailed e-mail to your boss and get a short response of "yes, ok" and you think: 

"That's all Tony has to say after I put in the time and effort to write a 6 paragraph email!? Pah! He always does this. I feel so unappreciated! Screw this guy!"

Perhaps you send an e-mail in the morning asking for help on a query, and you've not got a response by the next day - you might think:

"Uggh goddammit, why does Jane always take so long to respond? I don't want to chase her again because she always seems busy. SO DAMN FRUSTRATING. Guess I'll do some admin. That spreadsheet needs a new background colour....,"

A Clear Communication Document (CCD) is a simple outline where everyone writes a short document on how they communicate.

This is best shown by way of example, so here is mine:

🀏 Short responses

It's not unusual (Tom Jones) for me to give you a short response to an e-mail/query like "ok fine", and don't I commonly use a lot of emojis.

Please never assume that I'm annoyed or have an issue with your message if I give you a short response. I'll likely be dealing with a large batch of e-mails and want to triage these as quickly as possible.

If I ever have a problem with your message, I'll let you know about it clearly and directly.

πŸ—£ Slack/Teams/E-mail 

I view these as asynchronous communication (not instant communication), and I have all notifications turned off.

This means you'll often not get an immediate response, but you'll usually get one within 2hrs.

⚠ Urgency

If you need something answered urgently or for me to look at an e-mail/Slack, then send me an SMS text message (notifications are on for this). 

If I don't answer your SMS within 15 minutes, please call me on my mobile. If it’s super urgent, call me in the first instance.

I don’t mind being called, so don’t feel like you’re disturbing me.

πŸ€” Concerns

If you are concerned about something, then PLEASE arrange a meeting with me ASAP so we can chat.

There is nothing worse than being pissed off for an extended period of time at something that can likely be solved with clear communication.

Let's try to fix the issue sooner rather than later.

πŸ€“ Ideas

If you've got an idea or improvement you want to discuss, send me an e-mail/presentation, and we will always have a formal follow-up where I’ll give you detailed feedback.

Never feel like I might be too busy to listen to your ideas - I want to hear them.

Conclusion

As individuals, we all have different communication styles - you might HATE receiving phone calls, for example, while I don’t mind them.

Unless communication styles are made clear, unnecessary tension and inefficiency happen within an organisation. A CCD goes a long way to solving many of these issues in the first instance.

Knowledge Management - Notion
Notion is one of the best apps around at the moment. Along with being super user-friendly, it’s a flexible and visual way to organise and store your data.

Templates are available online - you can copy one into your Notion account and then customise it as you see fit.

Here is an example of the free Company Home template:

If we dive deeper into the Office Manual section, you can see everything laid out clearly:

Notion is a dream for onboarding new employees and acts as a central knowledge repository for your company which is critical for remote organisations. 

You could store your CCD in the Employee Directory, for example:

Notion (and similar tools like Microsoft Loop) is essential for modern-day communication and knowledge management in remote environments.

If you're not familiar with Notion, sign up for the free trial, play around with it, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

If you run a professional services firm, Reza Hooda has one of the best Notion setups that I’ve seen - you can watch his full YouTube video here

Slack/Teams
Most of us will be using something like Microsoft Teams or Slack as a way to communicate remotely (if you're not, you should be). 

Here are the core channels I recommend having as a starting point:

#announcements - Official company announcements

#events - Social or business events are posted here

#feedback - Have an idea or want some feedback/help? Ask it here

#funny - Post memes and funny stuff here - good for culture and doesn't clutter main chat

#general - Company-wide general chat channel

#sodeod - Start of Day End of Day (more on this later)

#team-meetings - Chat for team meetings, video of sessions are posted here for those that can't make it

#tools - Found a cool tool or website? Post it here

Depending on the size of your organisation, you can structure your channels into different groups like #accounting , #sales , along with only giving certain users access to channels (#management, for example)

Core Apps

Both MS Teams and Slack have apps that can integrate into the platform to enhance the experience. Here are three that I recommend for Slack as standard:

Donut will automatically pick two people and pair them together for a 15 minute "virtual coffee" (I hate that term) which is especially useful for getting to know people in a larger organisation.

Evergreen is an app where you can give official recognition to someone, which helps build culture. For example:

Simple Poll is used for creating polls that can be open or anonymous. This can be really useful in a number of circumstances, for instance:

Suppose you're still using e-mail as your primary form of internal communication. In that case, you need to look at switching to Teams or Slack, as you can significantly enhance your communication and culture.

Start of Day | End of Day
β˜€ Start of Day (SOD)

First thing every morning, each team member says what they are working on for the day. Around 2-3 sentences work best for a SOD, and it should never take you longer than 5 minutes to write.

For example:

“Working on ACME Widgets proposal this morning, new client meeting with John Smith early afternoon then tidying up some admin.”

Nice and simple. This shows transparency across the organisation, and everyone knows what each other is doing.

πŸŒ™ End of Day (EOD)

At the end of every day, the same three questions are answered, which should take less than 5 minutes to complete:

What was good about today?
Did you feel anything could have gone better?
Did you learn anything interesting today?
This is a valuable reflection and again increases transparency and accountability.

Your team members can read your EOD, learn new things and offer their assistance if they think they can help.

This works best if you have a specific Teams/Slack channel for #sodeod

Weekly meetings
A scheduled weekly 1-2-1 video meeting with your team members is critical in remote organisations.

This is not a meeting for you; it's a meeting for them. 

Sometimes it will be to plan the week or discuss a project. Other times, it will be just a quick chat to see how the week went or talk about the latest football match or your weekend plans.

Avoid arranging meetings only when you need something. This helps build the understanding that a meeting with you will not lead to a request to do more work.

Your team are your most important asset - if you have a scheduled meeting for 0900 Wednesday and a new client calls saying they can only speak at this time, tell the client you’re busy and need to push to next week. Your team is more important.

Remember - your team meetings are for them. Not for you.

Conclusion
I hope you’ve gained some insight into how to manage a remote organisation effectively.

It’s a busy time for us accountants over the Xmas period, so the next post will likely be coming your way in January.


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