I'm Back and Why Chat's the Worst Way to Manage Work

I haven’t sent an issue in a while. The run-up to Devcon consumed me. Since coming back after getting delayed because of the Typhoon, I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up! My plan is to start sending these every other week again.

I’ve also been directing attention to libp2p’s Project Manager search. It’s not too late to apply if you’re interested.

Chat’s The Worst Way to Manage Work

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while. I’m convinced real-time chat’s the worst way to manage work.
Ok, it’s out there now. I feel a little better 😊

Crypto’s overrun by real-time chat channels. I’m on at least 9 different chat platforms and can’t count the number of channels on each platform. If you’ve spent any time at all in crypto, I’m guessing you can relate to the pain this causes.

Using chat to communicate is difficult enough. Trying to manage work through it’s impossible. Yet so many crypto projects continue doing it by default. Once they start, it’s almost impossible to get them to stop.

People drop tasks in chats all the time. Sometimes they’re explicit and direct asks. Sometimes they’re implicit and indirect requests or suggestions. Sometimes they’re addressed to a particular person. Sometimes they’re not. Maybe they get logged somewhere, by someone, often they don’t.

Doing this also causes serious workflow disruption. People see the request and feel compelled to address and/or act on it RIGHT AWAY. Priorities blow-up and get destroyed in the process.

Then people start trying to discuss multiple tasks in a single, real-time chat stream. This becomes a mess of uncorrelated conversations. They require a person to manually piece a conversation together, usually in their head. This results in cognitive overload 🤯

So why do projects continue doing this? Usually it’s the perceived need for speed and the feeling that it’s impossible to slow down, even a step or two. As a result, the process inefficiency actually slows the project down even more than slowing down to establish a simple project management communication tool ever would.

What’s the answer? Slow down, take a few conscious breaths. Establish even the simplest project management tool. Use it to manage threaded and sane conversations. Establish the discipline to have task related conversations in it. Sit back and enjoy the results, i.e. improved efficiency and a saner team.

(This post is an evolution on my thinking about real time chat in general. This post from Doist has been a big influence on my thought process.)

P.S. - This was first published in my Blockchain PM newsletter here. Subscribe for free to receive posts like this and PM jobs listings about once a week.