Broadcasting one message over and over and over again
Whenever you make a sensitive decision that impacts many folks, state the decision in a group setting and share a written artifact. When you need to again share that message, reuse the same document and, even though you — like me — will feel like a robot, restate the message word-for-word.
I feel silly doing this. But it’s so easy to misinterpret complex decisions. And the best way I know to reduce confusion is to have everyone work from the same baseline.
It’s important to note folks will ask questions and bring up special cases you didn’t think about. This is expected and great news — it’s an opportunity to hone the decision. As needed, add all comments/questions on the shared document, even if someone individually messaged you. For each piece of feedback, attribute the feedback to the individual and try to also answer it. By avoiding 1:1 mediums, you avoid confusing follow up and are able to use the feedback well.
I also like written documents as “auto” answers to someone poking around Google drive or asking about the problem. In the latter case in my experience, that person may have been part of the initial meeting and the document helps nudge their memory.
Recently I put this into practice when building a major feature alongside 2 other engineering product teams. Here, there wasn’t a clear owner for decisions nor a central place to broadcast information. A couple of days before release, a major issue was identified. In response, I wrote up a remediation plan, ran it by key stakeholders, and then sent the document to all stakeholders. Despite the wide broadcasting, there was tons of confusion, and the first 3 versions of the plan were bad. But because everyone worked off the same document, it was easy to get feedback, determine key stakeholders and make updates.
For every situation where the process is helpful, there are probably thousands in which it’s not. For example, folks may need different levels of information based on their seniority and closeness to the problem. Or folks may need different storylines to buy into the decision. The story to the CEO vs the engineering team vs the commercial team is different. But, each subgroup may need the same message and feel more accountable with their peers around.
I personally index into individualization and lean into separate, personalized messaging. I love learning about a person and finding how to communicate a message in a way that individual understands. The key, for me, is learning when a situation “requires individualization” vs “broadcasting one message”.
Originally published at https://serenagupta.substack.com on October 4, 2021.