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Pick Up The Phone

Need to get something done?

Speak to someone.

I was reminded this week on several occassions that having a conversation is one of the fastest ways to move a project forward. On several unrelated issues, progress was blocked. Questions that were circulating in emails remained unresolved. There was uncertainty about how best to proceed.

On each occasion I picked up the phone. I got through. We had a conversation. We discussed the issue at hand and figured out the next steps together. Progress.

The same thing happened in the office. I got up, went to speak to someone, had the conversation and things moved along.

Conversation is an example of synchronous communication. In other words it's real time. (Unlike asynchronous communication, such as email, chat, SMS, where the recipient can choose to deal with a response at their convenience).

Not only is speaking with someone faster, for the right circumstances it can be also more effective.

However, there are also advantages to asynchronous communication methods such as email. For instance, it's annoying to be continually be distracted by people coming to talk to you if you're trying to focus on a task which requires extended concentration. Having an inbox to deal with when you're ready helps defer some responses allowing you to find time to focus.

The way I think about this is as follows;

  • Higher degree of uncertainty and/or higher degree of urgency: talk - use synchronous communication
  • Lower degree of uncertainty and/or lower degree of urgency: write - use asynchronous communication

If you are getting stuck because you are lacking certainty, pick up the phone or go speak to someone. Or - if the issue is urgent, pick up the phone.

Speaking with people is also one of the best ways of getting to know your customers. For many of the startups that partner with us at Forward Partners, the first thing they need to do is to understand their customers in order that the product that they build really addresses a need that's worth solving. Our team work with the founders to conduct in depth customer interviews. These detailed conversations lead to insights that provide clarity for what the product should be. It's because at the early stages, a startup up is working with lots of uncertainty and in that environment, speaking with customers is one of the fastest ways to find direction and certainty. In fact, often with the very first version of the product that is launched, part of the customer journey involves a conversation with the founders instead of fully automating everything. It's not scalable but it means that the founders learn about their customers and what is needed to iterate the product in the next phase.

Speaking with people can be amazingly effective.

Many of us revert to email as a default communication medium. It's become our norm. Sometimes we need a jump start to get stuff done. Talking is a tool that we need to remember to use.

As of today, my phone number is going back on my email signature.

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