Communication and Transparency

The best way for you to make a decision about what’s good for Obvious is to have all of the information about what’s going on at Obvious. The same is true for everyone else you work with, so it’s important that we’re all up to date about what’s happening, even with the areas of Obvious that we’re not actively involved with.

Transparency may seem like a passive process, like "don’t hide anything," but it’s actually a big challenge to keep everyone up to date and on the same page, especially on projects they’re not working on on a daily basis, even for a company the size of Obvious. These are some of the policies we use to make information more accessible, but our work is ongoing.


Pro-active checkins

It's also a good idea to be proactive about letting teammates know what you're working on and how it's going. 18F has a great paragraph on this:

Proactively communicate. As Kate Garklavs, a content designer who lives in Portland, puts it: “Because I'm remote, I've taken to sending short, proactive progress updates to my teams ("Hey, all — wanted to let you know that I finished writing XYZ and sent it to so-and-so for approval — should hear back by Friday."), even when daily standups aren't required. By sending these short updates throughout the day, I hope to keep folks in the loop with regards to what I've been up to.”

With increased individual flexibility, since we're all working at the same time less, it's important to go above and beyond in letting people know when we are around.


Slack Status

There are 4 states in which a teammate can be in on Slack:

  1. Active (green). Similar to when someone is sitting at their desk in the office, they are considered available and can be expected to respond in the range of a few minutes to an hour.

  2. Do not disturb (green). This teammate is at their computer, but focusing. Expect a response when they are done with whatever they are focusing on, but don't wait for them.

  3. Do not disturb (gray). This teammate is away from their computer and off work. Expect a response the next work day.

  4. Away. This teammate is off work or temporarily away. Check the Timetastic calendar.

Obviously, edge cases exist, but it's important that on both ends of our communication (both asking and responding) we uphold these expectations so that everyone on our team can plan their work effectively.


Public Slack Channels

Almost all Slack conversation should happen in public Slack channels where the rest of the team can see it. You may not subscribe to or pay attention to every channel, but conversations that happen in public channels are searchable and readable by the whole team, so when someone wants to know how we decided on some course of action, Slack gives them a place to look back at the conversation.

Not every ping or question needs to happen publicly, but when in question, you should err on the side of posting publicly.

Public Calendars

Work calendars should be shared to make scheduling meetings really easy and also to let the rest of the team see where we’re spending our time. Personal calendars often have sensitive information, and should be kept separate. Work calendars are documentation of how we’re budgeting our hours and are useful for the rest of the team.

Open Stats

When we measure something, it should be visible to everyone on the team. Our stats will be great sometimes and disappointing others, but when we hide or silo the hard stats, fewer people can help fix them. Any data that we’re collecting should be open to everyone.

We Succeed Together When We Trust Each Other

Communication and negotiation among groups of people is difficult, but the more honest we can be with each other, the easier it will be for us to trust one another and work together as a team. Openness and honesty will be critical to our success, which is why this is one of our core values, and why it’s a mantra we repeat in many conversations.

Providing Feedback

Since we value openness and transparency, you are as likely to get direction or feedback from your manager as you are from one of your peers. We depend on that. If you have feedback for someone, please just give it to them. Be polite and honest. It's not a big deal, and they will appreciate it. As a general rule, if you have feedback for someone, it's your responsibility to give it to them directly - it's not OK to talk about someone else without also being willing to talk to them directly.

Always assume good intent as you think about the feedback you would like to give someone. We are all in this together. Written communication in particular can be tricky. Go out of your way in your communication to think about how someone might interpret (or misinterpret) what you are saying.

Also be sure to thank and congratulate folks when you think they are doing great work, too. The more the better. Doing it in public, like on the #daily-wins channel can be a morale-booster for everyone!

If you are uncomfortable providing feedback to someone directly, please talk to your manager about it.

See also