Is too much communication in teams a bad thing?

David T. Kim
15 replies
Remote or not, I often sense that "too much" communication in teams create fatigue. Sure, free flow of information is a must for alignment, but sometimes that synchronous interoperability gets heavy with every morning stand ups. To get away from all that, I encourage my teammates to take a walk and stay away from constant barrage of slack and other communication apps. Do you think sometimes we take things too far in terms of "team alignment"?


Hanna Werbster
Communication can differ. Communication process has to be organised effectively. Thus it will be useful.
Elle Werle
I think it can definitely be taken too far. I often interpret over-communication as that person not trusting me to get the job done, and/or micromanagement. I'm sure others prefer this style of communication, though. I think it's important to understand each other as individuals and adapt (to a degree) to their preferences. Or at least seek to understand them.
David T. Kim
@ellebelle Agreed. As a leader, I do understand that sense of ... "Do they really understand what I meant?" type of feeling. We should be careful with how we handle that though.
Andrew Kirima
I generally only ask for 3 scrums(Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) a week out of my dev team, with only 1 being an actual in person meeting, the rest are just scrum docs. It seems to work. At first I did to little like 1 or 2, and it didn't seem to be effective. My engineers would be slow to respond and wouldn't communicate what's going on in their end for development. Granted that we are an early stage startup in our pre-seed stage, and most of our developers are undergrads. Curious if anyone thinks 3 scrums a week is too much or not enough? And how I can implement more effective communication strategies.
Elen Udovichenko
For me - yes, especially if we're talking about video meetings. Many of them are a total waste of time and can be easily substituted by a single email or a solid collaboration and task management tool. I also need to turn off notifications in Slack (or simply shut it down) to eliminate the distractions and focus on an important task.
David T. Kim
@elen_u Yes, most meetings are a waste of time. I do wonder if that "waste of time" sometimes are needed to sustain personal connections? In the past I just scrummed with work related talking points and after a while, people confessed that I and the company felt cold and distant. Not understood. Since then, I've been trying to balance efficient meetings and personal connections at work.
Elen Udovichenko
@david_t_kim You have a point. We're using Donut to randomly connect with other team members for a brief informal call once a week. Also, we're regularly chatting on Slack within our marketing team and have some informal game nights or virtual wine testings from time to time. That seems to be working pretty great for us!
Ethan Zoller
I'd say the team shouldn't have to worry about any messages outside of their work schedule. If you have all of these urgent conversations needing to be done or notifications to send outside of work time, you probably aren't planning in a good manner. But, I see the case for really high level urgent problems. Examples are like the service shuts down, users can't sign in, verification emails aren't being sent. Support your team by making it clear that they shouldn't be looking at notifications outside of their time. If they really needed to be contacted, call them. If not, it should wait. A simple notification about a new task, review, or change can really tarnish time outside of work. It throw's the brain back into work.
David T. Kim
@ethan_zoller "Throw's the brain back into work" is such an important phrase. It's important that people disconnect completely.
Richard Shepherd
It almost certainly depends what the team is doing. If they are building something (like we are in our team) then I would tend to agree with you. If the team is fighting a fire right now then rapid communication is more useful. There's this middle ground where you're trying to define vision or direction but this is best done in person ideally, or using a video / phone call. In our team, we turned off instant messenger. It really bogs you down. Pilita Clark wrote an interesting article on Slack in the workplace called 'How constant Slack messaging has made work more taxing': These two lines summarise the article quite well: "There are times when its use does make sense. For a one-off team assignment with a pressing deadline, it is brilliant. It can also help to keep far-flung team members in touch." "But the chief reason I will always find it hard to love Slack is that it can be such a monumental distraction." What keeps Slack going for you? It just seems like a massive productivity drain to me. I think in the context of making, too much communication is detrimental. Agree a direction, implement it, review it. Agree the next direction. When we had IM on the go we were constantly questioning the direction, because we could, now we have to wait until Friday when we have our review meeting.
David T. Kim
@richardesigns Thanks for your insightful write up Richard! We use Slack because emails tend to take a formal tone within a team, losing that personal touch. As you've noted, emails are probably better for tracking records and time management. It's like - more productive but feels uncool (email) vs seems productive but really cool (slack).
Richard Shepherd
@richardesigns @david_t_kim Isn't it weird how a technology informs the tone. I couldn't possibly be informal, it's an email! I find this super weird. You're welcome. Slack seems cool but like drugs, quickly becomes uncool particularly when in attention deficit rehab! Have you read Deep Work by Cal Newport?
Stephane Ibos
Definitely yes. Communication (whether strategic or tactical) should be limited to what matters when it matters. Piling up meetings (even 'stand ups') or Slack messages will just disturb everyone, and dilute the key messaging. Team members should be empowered and autonomous. Free to seek help/advice when needed, but let to operate as they feel. This creates great productivity. "Reporting" or "alignment" times should be kept at a minimum, otherwise people feel micro-managed and actually disempowered, which can trigger a very bad negative spiral.
Nachiket Patel
Communication is inevitable! Whether the quantum of communication is good or bad depends on the frequency of communication and the productivity of that communication.