Although Slack is positioned as a productivity tool, it becomes counterproductive when misused. Instant messaging applications enable communication that is online, synchronous and on-demand. This tends to be appropriate for interrupt-driven teams like those in customer service and sales. However, project-oriented teams tend to suffer from inundation. As a software developer in product development, I constantly seek and protect long-uninterrupted blocks of time. That is when I am able to create value of higher quality, faster.
Rishi, Slack can be right for you. You just need the right tools and practices to focus your work.
You rightly mention practices:
“Organizations that find enough value in using Slack should introduce rules of engagement. For one, it should not be used to facilitate feedback or decision making. It is not fair to expect the other person to be actively engaged in a Slack conversation.”
I’d suggest that every Slack team, old or new, have a discussion and determine engagement expectations. Don’t codify this into hard set rules too early, but set up some guidelines and test them, and let norms emerge. It’s a difficult challenge to find the right balance between the need for a given person’s participation and their needs to focus. And especially when the best energy they can contribute is volunteered.
Since Slack is for me, I’ll give you my best practice for consideration. It may not be a fit for you or your culture, but it may help to consider.
- Reading official announcements (eg in #announcements) is expected
- Reading everything is optional, except when someone @mentions you
- At the minimum, participate in Slack once a day
- Replies are optional, except when someone asks you a direct question
- Everyone should have at least one Channel they are a part of with the people they work the closest with. Your project, workgroup, etc. will likely need your participation more than once a day.
- Try to take any DM conversation that you can to a public channel for others to benefit from.
- Participation in conversations beyond your role is not only good for the company, but the sooner you figure it out, the faster your career will progress
- The conversations you make are the relationships you take. Be responsible in how you interrupt others.
Also note what Slack as a tool is not and consider how to combine it with other tools. At Pingpad, we have a strong point of view that Slack and other messaging platforms are the way people are choosing to work. It is not a tool for tracking tasks, managing projects, documenting decisions, creating a knowledge base or focusing conversations. You need to add tools and practices to enable focused work, particularly on projects. Then Slack can be for you.
(Cross-posted @ Medium | Ross Mayfield)