Stop Slacking, Start Working

Practical and easy rules of tools that help your organisation grow

Matt Hallmann


The New Yorker recently published an article in the Cultural Comment sections, about the potential toxic downside of using communication tools like Slack. Under the title ‘Slack Is the Right Tool for the Wrong Way to Work’, Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University, talks about his experience with a London startup that decided to switch communications to Slack. Of course very soon everything starts to go from bad to worse. Before the start-up knows what hit it, it ends in a overloaded, stressed out situation. And guess what, abandoning Slack is the only option left.

The article gets almost everything right, but it does misunderstand one thing: Slack is actually the right tool, for the right way to work. To be able to work in a right way, your organisation and its employees might need to create some rules. Rules that help navigate the communication jungle we live in today. Those rules will not only help you work in the right way to make Slack work. It will also help you to make all tools work for you.

Write down basic rules of tools

There are many tools that you can use for many different purposes. Make sure that you start with a simple list. Include the name of the tool, what it’s used for, and how fast you expect employees to act on each of these tools. For example:

Tool: Email Used for: external communication if not otherwise possible Response time: respond within 24 hours

Write down basic rules of interaction

Once you establish what tools you use, for what purpose, with what time frame, it’s time to move on to the how. Be clear on what good examples of interaction are. Streamline communication through all tools. This list of best practices is personal and depends on your type of organisation. Yet, there are three elements that always come back:

Content: what to ask/answer and how to be clear and concise
Form: how to ask/answer what you want to communicate
Bandwidth: who to involve when you ask/answer something

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