Engineering Human Comms

This short post came about as I was musing on common themes I am seeing through my own experiences across a variety of companies. I am attempting to crystalise some of the ways in which I think about what communications means, and how we begin to think about changing it.

It may come as something of a surprise to learn that a lot of people in businesses complain about poor communication.

Even more so to me, that it is often the very people with exposure to, control of, and repsonsbility for the mechanisms providing access to communications i.e. people in technology. I’m thinking about telephones, email, wiki’s, twitter and social networks.

I supposed that this may lead one to think people in tech were not very good communicators, now when have I heard that before..?

It is intersting to grapple with this problem, I like to characterise it in the following way:

  • What – what is the message, fact, opinion, i.e. content?
  • Who – think about who we want to notice what we’re saying, and if they are the right people?
  • How – does your intended audience have a mechanic for hearing what you’ve got to say, i.e. what mechanism provides them a convenient way to consume your communications?

If we do a paper exercise and jot down some of the answers from the team around the above three points, we often find some interesting discrepancies, ranging from the technical detail to the actual interest of the audience.

Atlassian recently published a piece on using blogging via confluence to beneficial effect, their article is well worth a read especially if you are already a confluence user. The article is firstly focussed on the benefit of internal blogging, but I would argue that making time in the schedule for public facing content is highly valuable, it might even help you to attract better engineers, as it demonstrates publicly a capability of communication with the tech group.

There is nothing new or revolutionary about this approach, we can still see the Sun Microsystems site, arguably pioneering the sharing of engineering team information publicly, with their now defunct site (the earliest Internet archive snaphot all the way back from 1996 is here).

Other examples are the who have been pushing out systems and software engineering articles at since late 2012, and of course there is the requisite Netflix reference to cite as well a variety of their articles can be seen at their site.


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