A senior architect shared some knowledge and material about async comms with me. Through my xp, I have comfirmed much of what he told me. Async communication is clearly better than sync communication (calls, in-person meetings).
Adam Spiers, a senior architect shared some knowledge on async comms with me while I was at ETH Amsterdam. I agreed with pretty much everything he said and he also presented me some blogs that I read.
Side note: I can't find those blogs right now, but I'll try to and update this article at the bottom and here if I can.
Today I want to further share this knowledge and add my experiences to it.
The obvious advantage ⌚️
Communicators don't have to be available at the same time. Everyone knows and understands this benefit, but they usually still push for meetings (whether in person or on Zoom) because they think that's more effective.
Which is actually completely wrong. And I'll prove it by reminding you of a few situations which I am sure have happened to you.
Talking over each other 🗣
I'm pretty much 100% sure that either you had someone talk over you or you had to talk over someone at some point in your career.
You resent the people that talk over you. And feel like an asshole when you do.
In the worst case, talking over each other can degenerate into very chaotic conversations where nothing is truly communicated. Thankfully, that never happened to me.
In a not worst, but still pretty bad case, you'll have some people that just retreat from the conversation.
I might be brash enough to intrerrupt people (I still try to be polite) if needed to point out something I want to stand behind. But not everybody is like that. Some people are shy and quite simply don't do well in a meeting because of that.
With written communication there is no talking over each other or intrerrupting people. Yay 🎉
Not being able to formulate good arguments on the spot
Have you ever felt that something someone said is off, but you can't quite put your finger on why instantly?
Has it ever happened to you that you think of the perfect counter-argument but only 2 hours after the decision has been made?
Well, it's normal. We're not machines that have instant access to all the data and information in our heads. We can't always process or understand concepts immediately.
Many times, it takes some 'fermentation time' to create and formulate your argument/counter-argument and present it in a good way.
Things can come out incomplete or even sound stupid when you think as you talk.
A 1 hour meeting doesn't allow for 'fermentation time'. Async written communication does.
Info gets lost 🔍
What if you couldn't make the meeting? Or you want to review the discussion to think further about it?
Unless there is a recording, you're out of luck.
And, let's be real, even if there is a recording... you don't really want to spend an hour watching it. You probably won't watch it.
Meetings can be slow / wasting time 😪
Have you ever been in a meeting where you have to listen to someone talk about something that doesn't really matter to what you do?
Have you had to witness people in meetings deviate from the meeting's subject/agenda?
That was wasted time (for you). And I'm sure you have wasted other people's time in a similar fashion too. I definitely must have done it.
Most of the information from a meeting can usually be conveied in written form and be read much faster then it'd take to go through a meeting. Also, people can skim over the parts that are not relevant to them.
People are late to meetings 😡
This is kind of a personal pet peeve. I do my best to always be a few minutes early to any meeting.
Some people are late. That's fine... especially if it only happens once in a while and it's no more than 5 minutes late.
I don't blame or resent people for it.
Maybe your kid wanted to talk to you for 5 minutes just as you were about to enter the meeting. Or maybe you lost your internet connection.
Hell, maybe you just finished a meeting where someone was dragging it past the alloted time.
I totally, fully understand. It's not your fault.
But we can fix this easily, by reducing the amount of meetings we hold. 🔧
The right way to communicate async
I'm hopeful that the above examples had shown you a few very regular problems with meetings and sync communication.
But what's the alternative here?
Use Notion & Linear, not Slack or Discord!
I wish I had links to the blog articles I mentioned above, but the main argument against IM or chats is that information gets lost very easily in there. It also still implies sync communication.
Now, when you use Notion to have a debate to decide the best course of action for a project, you don't have all of these issues mentioned above.
People can't talk over each other, they have the time to formulate their ideas and organize them in a way that's easy/fast to read. And they can pitch in as their time allows.
More so, all the communications are there either on the Notion page or in its history. It's very easy to search and find information. It doesn't get lost as it would in a meeting or on Slack.
Linear is more specific to engineers, but it's an amazing tool.
If I get blocked when fixing a bug, I could share it in a meeting or on Slack, yes. But if I tag you in linear with a link to GH so you can see the code, I think that's more useful.
Not only is the code there to see, but also everyone knows what issue (in the tracker) my problem relates to. The information is easy to find.
All the above benefits are valid for Linear too (not talking over each other, having time to formulate what you want to communicate, etc).
I'm not saying meetings should be completely purged.
Some are good for different reasons. A standup improves team chemistry. A pair programming session can improve productivity.
I'm just saying you probably can shed a few from your weekly schedule. 🗓