Sharpening our Slack game

I am a big fan of Slack (if not some of their recent PR choices) and it has been an integral part of the way I have worked for several years now. At ONS my team was co-located and were generally great communicators but Slack was still vital to how we operated.

Since joining Defra it has become even more important in my working life as I now operate in a geographically dispersed team with people based in London, Leeds, Manchester, Chesterfield and Bristol. People also have different working patterns and we all have projects that are in different corners of the country as well (I have upcoming trips to Reading, Minehead, Newcastle and Carlisle for instance.) So Slack has become our ‘war room’ and ‘water cooler’.

As the team has been growing though I’ve been wondering about whether we are making the best use of it we can and given we are a team consisting of some pretty experienced agile practitioners whether we are iterating our ways of working in this space enough.

So I read a bunch of blogposts — especially from Slack themselves and 18F, then asked a few questions on Twitter and then boiled it down to 11 ‘rules of engagement’ for us to try out as a team. These are just the tip of the iceberg and I have no idea if they will work but we’ll try them out and see what happens. Really interested in other approaches — especially for medium sized (20ish people), geographically dispersed teams.

Team rules of engagement for Slack

  1. Create an #announcements channel — admin only for core team news not discussion
  2. Create a #whereabouts channel (linked to Google Calendar) for greater visibility (considering adding first part of post code to username to clarify where people are based.)
  3. Be patient — where possible if you can see someone “ typing” wait before adding your comment to prevent muddled conversations and crossed wires (this is easier said than done I know!)
  4. When commenting on a document use the ‘add comment’ option to keep all comments together rather than normal chat (or comment on document if it is Google Docs.)
  5. For #weeknotes add a weekly image in channel and comment on that* to keep the week notes together — wider discussion can happen as usual
  6. Use appropriate #channels not #general for everything
  7. Refrain from using @channel @everyone @here alerts unless urgent
  8. Use emoji-reactions to confirm you agree with something if asked (green tick)
  9. Channel just for links to latest versions of team documents
  10. Use more of Slacks automated features — set up reminders, train Slackbot (have set up weeknote and stand-up reminders for team)
  11. Consider using custom-emoji as labels/tags to track topics of conversations
  • I can’t remember where I nicked this idea from but if you read this I thank you — great idea!

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