My Company’s Pyramid Of Communication Revisited

How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done.

Nozbe Pyramid of Communication

Originally posted on my personal blog

Let’s get back to how we use modern technologies to communicate better and get more done in an all-remote team

A few months ago I posted about my company’s pyramid of communication, which we also discussed on the 18th episode of The Podcast. We recently revisited the concept on the 65th episode of The Podcast “Request for Comments” and thanks to this I wrote a whole book on the subject with the concept revisited, please let me know what you think:

Communication Pyramid in a nutshell

Instead of following the high and low bandwidth communication style which is so popular in traditional offices, at Nozbe we realized there are actually five levels of communication. They all vary between “highest bandwidth” and “lowest bandwidth.” They are even stronger now in the 21st century as there are applications and technologies that help us communicate way better than before. Let’s explain these levels right now.

Level 1 — Done and Out - The “Deep Work” level

This is the core of what we do. In a perfect world we would spend most of our working time at this level. Here we are not interrupted at all. We just focus on our work and once it’s done, we post it to other team members. At this level we communicate through the work that we do.

Level 2 — Feedback Loops - The “Feedback please” level

This is where we get our feedback. In a traditional office people would use email for this — you do your work and you email it to someone to ask for feedback. At this level you don’t expect an immediate response to your work. You just want feedback and you want the other person to send it to you at their convenience within a reasonable time frame. You still don’t interrupt but you need the other person’s help. At this level we communicate through feedback.

Level 3 — Back and Forth - The “Direct Messaging” level

This is where we want our feedback almost right away. In traditional offices people would just walk over to someone, but thanks to technology we can use direct messaging apps instead. This way we don’t interrupt the other person as much, but we let them know we need their attention pretty soon. At this level we communicate through short messages to get our tasks done.

Level 4 — Immediate Feedback - The “Talk to me” level

This is where we need to discuss something but we don’t need 100% of the other person’s attention. At this level we use voice messaging. In traditional offices people would use phone calls for this. This way the person on the other end can be involved in an insignificant activity (like walking or driving) and still give us their feedback very quickly. At this level we communicate quicker but are still trying to respect the other person’s space.

Level 5 — Meetings - The “Face to face” level

This is where we meet face to face. As you can see, this should be our last resort and not our default level. This is where we meet face to face and are 100% involved in the conversation and the feedback loop. This is where we give and require our full attention to the issue discussed. At this level we communicate very fast but we pay the price for this. That’s why we use this method very sparingly at Nozbe, and only for the meetings we really need.

There is a reason we call it a pyramid

We call this our “Pyramid of Communication” to reflect how we really want to communicate within our team:

  • We want to spend as much time at Level 1 as possible,
  • before moving to Level 2 and asking for feedback,
  • then moving to Level 3 to iron things out,
  • and talking through some things at Level 4,
  • then moving to Level 5 to really involve everyone needed.

In an ideal world we would be spending most of our time on Level 1, a little less on Level 2, much less on Level 3 and as little as possible on Levels 4 and 5.

This way we enable everyone on our team to get more done by interrupting them less and getting feedback when really required.

Yes, it’s easier said than done. Luckily there are great applications and technologies that help us set up these levels of communication and I’ll dig deeper into each level my brand new book: “No Office Apps”

Here’s how to get my “No Office Apps” book for free!

Written on September 25, 2016 (essay)
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