Five ways my team avoids email – Eternal Skype Chat

This is the third in a series of posts on how I lead my team in avoiding email.

We have a group Skype chat window that runs all the time.  Whenever team members are working and not in a meeting they are expected to “be in the room”.

This is effective for our team that is spread across four timezones in many ways.

1. If you have a quick question for a teammate, you can ask them.
ex. “@jr Were you able to send the national leaders the report on metrics?”

2. If you have a general question anyone “in the room” might be able to answer it quickly.  It takes the guessing out of who to send an email to.
ex. “@all Does anyone know know where to find the policy about wellness days?”

3. It makes calling impromptu meetings efficient.
ex. “@joshw do you have five minutes to talk about x?” (if yes, we start a video call)

4. It helps the team be more social and acts as a water cooler of sorts.

5. If you’re out of the office, you can quickly scan a days worth or weeks worth of chats to see what was going on or if anyone was trying to connect with you.

6. It allows you to ask teammates for help and give them the freedom to respond when convenient, but without the added overhead of creating an email thread.

Mechanics of how my team does this…

A. Notifications.  You can set skype to only notify you when certain words appear in a chat window.  For example, I am only notified when the words, “@all, @russ, @rm” appear in the group chat window.  Metaphorically, this allows me to listen for knocks at my door, but still be able to look out the window to see what’s going on.

B. Call signs.  Each team member has a call sign to reduce on the number of characters you need to type and also to allow for efficient use of notifications.

Note: Team members have trained and disciplined themselves to learn to work without the chat window becoming a distraction that prevents productive work.  Team members may go offline for extended period to work on projects/tasks.  They simply tell everyone else they are.  We have also created an expectation that if you are busy, you are not obligated to respond to someone’s bid for your assistance or input.  You simply respond at a good breaking point or when it’s convenient for you.

Questions?  How do you use messaging to eliminate email on your team?


3 thoughts on “Five ways my team avoids email – Eternal Skype Chat

  1. Love it!

    We started a working document between my co-leader and I in google wave and would just list out any topic we needed to talk about.

    But since google wave is going away, It’ll be a google document.


  2. How do you filter Skype pings? Sounds interesting.


  3. On the Mac Skype Client:
    1. Right-click on the desired chat on the right or left-had side in the ‘drawer’.
    2. Choose “Chat Notification Settings…”
    3. Modify the settings how you wish. I have “Notify me only if these words are mentioned” to “@russ @rm @all” for our Ops chat.


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