October 21, 2022

How Not to Do Async Communication

“You don’t have to respond in real time.”
― Tim Ferriss

Asynchronous communication has a lot of advantages. It Reduces interruptions, increases flexibility, and enhances collaboration. Async isn’t appropriate for every situation, but it can be excellent when used effectively.

That said, when used poorly, asynchronous communication creates chaos and confusion.

So what does poor async communication look like?

It looks a lot like an email with half the company CC’d. I’m sure there are a lot of other problems I could focus on, but let’s start here.

When you CC everyone under the sun, you create more problems than you solve.

First, it makes responsibility and expectations unclear. If you CC’d me, do you want me to file the message away in case I need it later, review and respond, or take a different action?

Second, it wastes time. I don’t have time to read through every email i was copied on, “just in case” it’s important. If I ignore those messages, I may miss something important until it becomes a big problem. Either way, time wasted.

Now, of course there are some emails that need everyone CC’d. Maybe an update about the company dental plan requires everyone to take some action. Perhaps a big announcement from the boss should include everyone so everyone can enjoy the win. These emails should be few and far between.

Think about why you’re CC’ing someone before you send that email. Is it just the default? Is there another way to communicate with the group? Am I afraid to leave someone off for fear they won’t think I’m doing my job?

If everyone needs this information, perhaps there’s a better tool than the CC field, for example, a shared project document, a kanban board, the next standup meeting, etc. We have software like Basecamp, Pivotal, or even Google Docs that can help.

Use the right tool for the job, and use CC sparingly.