Scalable communication in 
a distributed organization

Scalable communication in 
a distributed organization

For a globally distributed company, remote work is not about “working from home” per se, but about working in a way that is unconstrained by geography or time zone. Scalable communication is crucial for this style of work.

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Lena Morita

May 19, 2020
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  1. HIGH CONTEXT, LOW CONTEXT Scalable communication in 
 a distributed

    organization LENA MORITA
  2. @mirka Software Engineer at Automattic Co-Director at
 Women Who Code

    Tokyo LENA MORITA
  3. and more!

  4. None
  5. @mirka Uruguay United States Spain (living in UK) Slovakia Romania

    Japan Philippines MY TEAMMATES BY COUNTRY
  6. SIX MONTHS AGO…

  7. @mirka HIGH-CONTEXT COMMUNITY • Common values and ideals • Shared

    history • Everybody knows each other • Similar cultural background • Running jokes and jargon
  8. @mirka EXTREMELY HIGH CONTEXT! MY PREVIOUS JOBS • 3-person, all-Japanese

    agency
 where we had a similar sense of humor and taste in music • 2-person agency with my significant other
  9. None
  10. MY BEGINNINGS AT
 AUTOMATTIC

  11. @mirka OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE • Audience • Longevity

  12. @mirka FOR AUTOMATTIC “WHY” REMOTE WORK? • Things can be

    built remotely (OSS). • When building for a diverse user base,
 it’s better for the workforce to be diverse. • Only way to hire from the global talent pool.
 “Talent and intelligence are equally distributed
 throughout the world. But opportunity is not.”
  13. @mirka Remote work can be much more than “WORKING FROM

    HOME”
  14. @mirka FOR AUTOMATTIC REMOTE WORK IS… Replicating the co-located workplace

    experience Synchronous → Asynchronous
 Verbal → Written
  15. SCALABLE COMMUNICATION

  16. @mirka ADVANTAGES ASYNC, WRITTEN COMMUNICATION • Public by default =

    No silos • Newcomers have access to historical context
  17. @mirka A framework for thinking about SCALABLE COMMUNICATION is useful

    for any organization,
 remote or not.
  18. @mirka SYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION can be very useful, but is expensive.

  19. @mirka In an async, written context, COMMUNICATION = EMITTING INFORMATION

  20. @mirka 1. Lifespan 2. Audience 3. Mode EMITTING INFO HOW

    AND WHERE?
  21. @mirka WILL WE NEED TO RETRIEVE THIS INFORMATION? LIFESPAN •

    Zero — Calls, meetings • Less than a few weeks — Slack, chat • More than a month — Blog, wiki, or any agreed-upon, searchable repository
  22. @mirka WHO WOULD WANT THIS INFORMATION? AUDIENCE • Only a

    specific person (private) • Only my immediate team • Topic-based narrower broader
  23. @mirka PUSH OR PULL? MODE FEED
 Timely information that is

    mainly useful now. WIKI
 Evergreen information that is retrieved when needed.
 Anyone can edit.
  24. LOW-CONTEXT
 COMMUNICATION

  25. @mirka LOTS OF SHARED CONTEXT HIGH-CONTEXT COMMUNICATION • Easier •

    Faster • More fun! But not scalable
  26. @mirka NOT MUCH SHARED CONTEXT LOW-CONTEXT COMMUNICATION • Takes empathy

    • Takes more time • Affords less “personality” But scalable
  27. @mirka 1. Topic 2. Structure 3. Rhetoric CALIBRATE IS THERE

    ENOUGH CONTEXT?
  28. @mirka HOW FAMILIAR IS MY AUDIENCE? TOPIC • Imagine being

    a newcomer, or yourself in six months • Hypertext is your friend
  29. @mirka DOES IT SUPPORT DIFFERENT CONTEXTUAL NEEDS? STRUCTURE • Provide

    a TLDR • Clear structure with subheadings • If you have an “ask”, be clear about it
  30. @mirka ARE MY EXPRESSIONS STRAIGHTFORWARD? RHETORIC • Be careful: Slang,

    acronyms, colloquial expressions • Restrain the impulse to be “clever”
  31. @mirka Async & written Public by default Low context SCALABLE


    COMMUNICATION
  32. THANK YOU!