Interview with Adrian Swinscoe
May 13, 2021

Adrian is a customer experience advisor, author, speaker, workshop leader and aspirant punk at Punk CX. We had the opportunity to chat with him about changing norms with distributed work and the subsequent team communication issues that have been top of mind for many leaders.

By now, many of us have Zoom fatigue and now Slack fatigue. What other team communication problems in the distributed context aren’t being addressed? 

I think there's two things. First, there are too many people getting caught up in an endless cycle of meetings, where we end up in all of these meetings, days get packed, and the days start getting longer. But, all that does is displace the time that people have to do their actual work.

On top of this time management problem, people are overcompensating with more formal ways of communicating. When you approach things formally, we tend to think in much bigger chunks of time. So I'd say we need to replace some of that with a more informal way of communicating that's faster and more effective.

How does this impact the employee experience, and the company itself? 

Well, it delays access to quick fixes and disrupts knowledge sharing. Just think of the knowledge that's transferred when we're in the office, from those tap on the shoulder interactions, the "Hey, do you have 2-3 minutes to show me that solution you told me about the other day?"

With these interactions, you end up bringing people along with you, and you don't feel as isolated. And so, it's effective in terms of delivering a better employee experience and better work. But, at the same time, it makes people feel that they're connected, supported, listened to and that they've got a connection to the team.

So there’s actually a good amount of knowledge that’s being lost do to this inefficiency? 

Yea, I think about it in terms of what is tacit and what is codified knowledge. I would suggest that probably about 60-70% of most knowledge in most organizations is not codified and it sits in people's heads.

Now, if you can give people access to that knowledge more quickly and through better informal communication, they can better understand it in their own way, map their own territory, and the territory of their team to end up all working together towards a common kind of goal. That, in turn, will help raise the levels of the entire organization.

When you think about the coming months and years, when many organizations seem likely to pursue this hybrid distributed setup, how does this problem manifest?

I don't think there's a clear path just yet. And in absence of that, the best thing that we can do is provide some understanding and insight into how things are developing and propose a plan in order to keep people informed. However, I think employee preferences should play a big part in that, and we need to pay attention to that.

I don't think we need to come up with all of the answers just yet. But, we need to be cognizant of the fact that there's still a lot of variety, variance, and unknowns as yet. So, looking for certainty right now feels like a fool's errand.