The Phone and Work

Back in the old days – the receptionist would tell a visitor: Oh, he’s not busy – he’s on the phone!

‘Doing business’ then was meeting with others, writing correspondence, or compiling proposals and reports. Early on, the phone was more novelty than tool – it was seen by many as personal entertainment with a tenuous connection to the business process – similar to Facebook today.

Some traditions die hard – as evidenced by that co-worker who begins a conversation from your office door while you are on the phone – no class and no appreciation of the value of the phone as a significant business tool.

Seth Godin has blogged often about the imperfection of communication – written, pictured (i.e., video), and verbal – but notes that phone calls are the least imperfect, since a cycle of clarity is built in.

‘Huh?’ is a great way to get the other person to clarify in realtime.

A business toolbox without the phone as a versatile tool is like an auto mechanic without a hammer – sometimes it’s just what is needed for getting results efficiently!

On a daily basis Dick Davies and I have a structured phone call for updates on projects, planning, and sharing interesting new information. We also have an ‘As I See It’ discussion which is wide ranging and open – which result in deeper knowledge of the topic and often new strategic insights as well.

This process is an effective substitute for those stimulating, informal ‘office’ chats when we were all in a single location. But can it scale for a collaborative project team with members located around the U.S. (or world) in many locations.

General Stanley McChrystal when Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) held an ‘As We See It’ session with 70 nodes around the region for 90 minutes everyday – he said this was the most effective way to tap local knowledge of enemy activities and keep all units up to date on current information and plans.

Email, Hangouts, Cloud-based document collaboration, and other technology applications enable asynchronous team performance, but sometimes the old technology of clear, realtime, interactive, verbal communication is the best and most efficient. Pick up the phone and join the call for immediate results.

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Dick Davies

Seeing General McChrystal explaining that 90 minute call made me think we are on the right track.
It’s hard to keep focus for the whole call, especially when others are slacking.
I’m also seeing texters stopping in the middle of the sidewalk with a crowd behind them, “Wha? Oh sorry.