From the Founder's Desk: Sara

One week in: Slack changes reviewed

It’s amazing how quickly time seems to fly by these days. I’ve been told it’s because I’m getting older, but I’d rather believe it is anything but that :)

Last week, Dave told you about the reasons we decided it was time for AgileBits to take a step back from Slack and really evaluate how we communicate with each other. I have to admit, I was definitely one of the folks dragging my feet, resisting the change. It’s well known around here that I’m not one for new tools, and I have a tendency to overthink potential pitfalls. Analysis Paralysis! It’s real, and can be its own hurdle to jump.

We were supposed to take baby steps, starting up Basecamp and gradually winding down things with Slack. But as Dave said, breaking the addiction was hard, and people didn’t naturally migrate away. So we decided one day that we were going cold turkey, everyone all at once—including me!

Immediately, there were things I loved: the Card view of To-Do lists let the organizer in me instantly see the top items and where my team need support. There were also things I missed: the little-green-dot “here” indicator from Slack, and surprisingly, the emojis. I hadn’t realized how much more satisfying it was having the opportunity to “react” to someone’s statement with a smiley face :) or a party horn :toot:!

I haven’t got a technical background, and I hear Dave say things that often make sense, but don’t always register on a deep level for me. One was his beating of the “Signal versus Noise” drum. I’d heard it before, but hadn’t really thought about what it meant. I was following 97 channels in Slack, and now I have 23 Basecamp groups. Either way you slice it, it’s a lot of communication.

I was very surprised that within a day or two, I noticed a complete change in how I was able to approach my notifications. As someone who regularly clears all the notifications a few times a day, this used to take a longer time in Slack, often resulting in backtracking to see which channel talked about such-and-such, because it was also being chatted about in another channel. I felt that I had to reply to comments immediately, because otherwise someone might not read back far enough to see something, and my voice wouldn’t be heard in the process.

In Basecamp, Messages are focused points for each of the different ‘camps’ and I can easily see whether a discussion is something I need to focus on or something I can glance at quickly. And with its threaded nature, I am able to completely focus on that Message, instead of having other pieces of information hopping in the way, distracting me from the task at hand. I have been able to focus in on the Signal much more quickly with this new setup.

The discoverability and permanence of the Signal have also helped greatly. Having the chance to go back and review, while also providing a place for future planning, gives us the opportunity to combine a few different tools into one. I know I’m in a unique position here at AgileBits, but Basecamp has me using one tool now to see who won the WWDC lottery, discuss plans for the next newsletter, and also track the pulse of each platform’s development.

Speaking of pulses, let’s talk about Heartbeats. We had initially looked at daily Heartbeats for everyone on the team, but decided to stick with Know Your Company and their Monday “What are you up to this week?” email. It gives everyone a chance to reply in one place and receive a nice digest email the next day. Deciding to use a new tool doesn’t mean you have to throw all the things into one package – if you have something that works, and works well, recognize that and keep on doing it!

We found a great use for biweekly and weekly Basecamp Heartbeats for our Developer and Customer Support Leads. Last week was our first kick at the can, and it was definitely a touchdown! It was wonderful having something that summarizes top issues and information, and provides a chance to discuss specific issues, responses, and possible solutions. I found the overview much better at tying all the individual threads together, and it gave the entire team a better opportunity to see the big picture.

Seeing the big picture is often the hardest part. It’s disheartening to hear “communication sucks at this company” when you spend hours emailing, calling, and chatting with people, only to find that your important information has gone through a sieve. Another benefit of quitting Slack entirely was that it ended the safety-net thinking of “if I miss it, I can just ask again”.

Entirely too often, folks would pop into a Slack room and ask a question that needed a quick answer, without first checking to see if we had documentation on it. If we rely on “the little green dots” to answer questions, we will never take the time to make our documentation better. There is now a concerted effort to make sure we are capturing the knowledge of our teammates; we need to be sure we are making things easier for us not only today, but also tomorrow. Growing a company has its challenges, and having solid information that a new person can rely on makes onboarding much easier.

It’s been a very revealing process so far. The move is still a new one, and as folks are getting more comfortable in Basecamp, it’s interesting to watch the spaces get filled in. For those of you following our journey, thanks for being here! Change isn’t easy, but in order to keep growing and making things better, we need to always be looking for ways to improve.

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