Cutting your teams some Slack

Eric Schurenberg describes Slack as “less of a quantum leap forward than a stunningly effective set of improvements on what came before” in the Dec/Jan issue of his magazine Inc (which named Slack its Company of the Year 2015).

We completely agree; Slack’s intuitiveness must surely be a big part of its success.

Seemingly every week now a new ‘social work management tool’ launches. More often than not, they’re just straight-up naff or so overly complicated that organisations end up with half their employees using it and half simply not bothering (hardly collaborative).

So when we were invited to join client Jadu’s Slack ‘press and media’ channel towards the end of last year, we did so with healthy scepticism. However, the experience has so far exceeded our expectations and truly been refreshing.

Not just is the tool incredibly easy to use, but in this case is used by a team that embrace on open culture.

Corny screenshot example pics courtesy of Slack.com

Traditional client contact throughout my agency life has consisted of email, regular calls (which often require agendas and actions), face-to-face meetings when possible and the occasional failed attempt at using project management tools like Marketing A.I and Basecamp. All of which are fairly time intensive without achieving too much beyond making sure everyone is kept in the loop.

Not Slack. Slack essentially provides chat rooms, divided by work streams. It really is that simple. Streams can be set-up across clients and projects.  For example, if we're working with a company ahead of it Mobile World Congress attendance, we can simply set-up a MWC stream with the relevant people.  

We could also potentially host journalist interviews (although we haven’t tried this yet) by creating a stream and simply inviting the interviewer and interviewee in. If the interviewer has any follow-up questions, the interviewee is always there, cutting out any unnecessary middleman work. The simplicity of the platform means the potential use cases are vast.

Jadu has an open culture whereby anyone that is interested in the ‘press and media’ side of the business is welcome in that stream.  This is great from our standpoint because it means that if a journalist has a question, we're able to quickly crowdsource the answers from the right people. There are no bottlenecks holding-up the process and everyone has oversight of what is going-on in real time.  This also allows the business to be very agile and take opportunities that require quick turnaround times, such as responding with thoughts on the Spending Review as it unfolds, which can then be shared with the media.  

Now, as with any tool, it has to be used properly. In the PR world, you hear horror stories of clients adding PR agencies on Skype and then attempting to micromanage them, which actually means less time spent doing-the-do and more time talking about doing-the-do (a lose/lose situation). This situation could easily be replicated here.  Whereas Slack can make a good situation great, I fear it could also make a bad situation worse.

Slack can't fundamentally ‘fix’ inefficient ways of working but, as it incrementally improves on what came before, we really believe it can incrementally improve (or make worse) the company culture it is serving.

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