The purpose of this document is to explore the principles of communication within an organization so we can work together effectively.
This may inform the tools we should be using, patterns of behavior we should recommend (or enforce), or it may inform tools that we think should be built to solve these problems.
<aside> 💡 For the purposes of this exploration, when referring to email as a tool, we'll assume that we're talking about email used in conjunction with an inbox 0 tool like Superhuman as opposed to a "mark as unread" or a home-brewed labelling system for communication management.
The proposals in this document only explore solutions related to asynchronous communication. Solving for synchronous communication is covered in Principles of Effective Communication - Solving for Synchronicity - October 2021.
First things first: communication is hard. Every company struggles to find the right way to communicate and it's a constant source of frustration. We explore a few reasons why internal comms within a company is hard in Principles of Internal Communications (Comms) - August 2020.
In this document we'll consider some of the principles to consider when communicating information between people in an organization, which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of which tools to use and how to use them.
Triage in the context of effective communication means the ability to determine the relative priority of a given piece of information.
Emergency situations in hospitals are the best known application of triage. People who show up to the emergency room will have different injuries. Some of these injuries are immediately life threatening (e.g. gunshot, car accident) while others are less serious but still require medical attention.
If hospitals treated people based solely on the relative order in which they showed up at the hospital, many people would die waiting for treatment behind someone with a less serious injury. The example below shows how without triage, half the patients would die while awaiting medical attention, while if you triage people based on the seriousness of their injuries, nobody would die.
Figma link, in case of editing: https://www.figma.com/file/2r4jtZ6rYlbQlK0IQWDNhP/triage?node-id=1%3A143
In much the same way that a hospital needs to determine who needs treatment first in order to maximize survival rates, a good communication tool will allow someone to determine the relative priority of a given piece of information.
Email (assuming it's used in conjunction with an "inbox 0" tool like Superhuman) gives you the ability to triage information in the same way. When a piece of information comes in, you can decide if you need to process it now or if it can wait for a future date — you can schedule an email to reappear in 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, or whatever time is relevant for that piece of information.