Communication

What’s the Best Internal Communication Structure for Remote Teams?

by Sasha Viasasha
August 2, 2017

In the old-fashioned, traditional office everyone worked the same hours in the same place. While that had clear limitations in terms of business speed and talent retention, at least the communications structure was simple.

The boss handed down work plans directly to employees, usually face to face, and most other interactions like project status reports were handled in the same way. The arrival of email in the 1990s changed the communications medium but not the structure, for the most part.

Today’s remote teams and flat organizational structures have just the opposite problem. The business can operate around the clock and flexible work schedules generate better productivity from an engaged talent pool. The burden of organizational success shifts to the internal communication structure.

Message Integrity

As proven by the old game of telephone, message integrity is compromised by everyone that handles it between the originator and the final receiver.

In terms of remote teams, often the strategic component of the message starts with the business owner, who routes it following the organizational structure. In a typical business, the message may go from the business owner through a business manager, a local project manager and a team lead before it gets to the workers who will execute the plan.

Even in flat organizations, where the remote workers report directly to the owner, it’s common to see message fidelity loss. Various groups try to coordinate their action plans based on differing understanding of the message. The sender’s goal and the receiver’s assumptions will impact what is communicated, even when the message is identical.

Generational differences also interfere with clear communications.

Example of An Internal Communication Structure 

In all cases, the channel used for internal communication is as important as the message itself in aligning intention.

Your plan will be as unique as your business, but here is a framework covering what the most important structural components of your internal communications plan.

Objective

A good way to assure that your objectives and goals are clear is to start with the SMART framework, popularized by Peter Drucker.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant  
  • Timely

Example: To keep all business leaders and remote teams aligned and informed so they can resolve problems quickly and turn plans into actions without delay.

Strategy and Tactics

This is a breakdown of the best channels, schedules and responsibilities. It should be a living document that is updated as the business grows and shifts priorities.

Example: 

Event

Team

Channel

Owner

Timetable

Notes

New project announcement

Remote teams A, B, C

Conference call

Project manager

As needed

Supporting docs by email

Status Update Project 1

Remote team C

Email

Team lead

Every 2 weeks

Can be handled on a call or chat if there is nothing new to report.

 SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

Stakeholders

 In person

Strategist

 Quarterly

Reports and charts due 2 weeks prior to meeting

Clarifications and Issues

Owner

Call

Remote team lead

As needed

Send text/chat of issue type and urgency before call


Review

This lays out plans for evaluating communication weakness and charting a better way for the road ahead.

Example: 

Issues

Proposed solutions

Remote team A missing deadlines

Meet with team members individually for a comprehensive view of the breakdown. Schedule training on effective communications and team building.

Productivity slowdowns

Communicate the consequences clearly. Evaluate engagement and course correct based on motivational analysis.

 

Humans Before Technology

The world’s best internal communication structure can only work when team members are committed to using it in the right way.

Setting up communications network with a human-first design is essential to securing buy-in across the organization. Solving for this is a unique process for each business, and it starts with investigating the pain points and productivity roadblocks in your team.

Spoke was designed to help teams connect simply, eliminate confusion, spark collaboration for more engaged, more productive teamwork.

For more tips on how to improve your remote team's productivity, download The Productivity Hacker's Guide to Integrating Remote Teams.

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The Productivity Hacker's Guide to Integrating Remote Teams