Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 16: real-time synchronous and asynchronous communications

This is my sixteenth installment to a series on what is one of the most important, and also one of the most commonly problematical of all workplace skills: communicating with others, and as an effective two (or more) way process (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342 and following for Parts 1-15.)

I began discussing business communications in an always connected context in Part 14, and continued that in Part 15 where I focused on use and misuse of Twitter, instant messaging and microblogging, and on use of short message channels in general. I turn here to consider the use and potential misuse of synchronous and asynchronous communications channels. And as is common for me in this type of discussion, I begin with the fundamentals.

• It can readily be argued that in a perfect world, we would all be able to communicate clearly and with just the right amount of detail and succinctness with whomever we need to communicate with, real-time when we need to and without barriers or delays.
• In the real world we frequently find ourselves communicating regionally and even globally and across several and even many time zones. When it is a good time for us to real-time communicate and in the middle of the workday for us it might be in the middle of the night and anything but a good time for real-time communications for a colleague we need to exchange information with.
• And even when this colleague is just down the hall, if they are tied up in a meeting that they cannot break away from, real-time would be at least as ineffective for them then too.
• My point is that in a real world we have to rethink perfect, or rather we have to rethink its best-practices closest realizable cousins. This means using real-time communications tools but in combination with asynchronous communications tools and channels for when real-time synchronous would not work.
• Even when that colleague is real-time available and synchronous communications such as phone or Skype calling or synchronous instant messaging are possible, depending on what we have to convey and communicate on, and its level of detail and complexity, asynchronous might still be best, or at an least essential as part of a dual or even multiple-channel communications approach.

Know who you have to communicate with, and know their communications styles and preferences. Be aware of and sensitive to their schedules and their timing restrictions and needs. And be aware of the simple, basic fact that some communications call for short message formats but some require fuller presentation of details – details that might best be conveyed asynchronously in direct communications as for example by email attachments, or through shared links to documentation and other information resources housed on an intranet, an extranet or a perhaps secure-access internet site.

And know what communications channels and tools you have available and which of them can and cannot synch with the tools available to the people you need to communicate with. I just mentioned email attachments in passing, above. Some email servers are set up as a security measure and to block cyber threats, to automatically block and delete outside-sourced attachments so if you send an important document to a key external stakeholder that way, they might never receive it – until you find that they have not and resend it via a different route.

I am going to discuss the issues of this series and particularly of its most recent installments in terms of change and adaptation to change, with the steady rapid emergence of new communications tools and channels and with differences in rates of access to them and acceptance of them even when they might be available. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. You can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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