Islands in the Stream


I recently endorsed the use of Twitter in our organization. I must have been mad. There's already so much information going around, what possible benefit can the noise on Twitter bring to improve our in-company communication?

We receive dozens of emails every day, sometimes directed personally, but often as part of a Cc-broadcast, or a company-wide announcement or newsletter. We use instant messaging in the form of Jabber, and we have phone, Skype and X-Lite for voice transfer. And there are tools like SharePoint and Team Foundation Server that add to the information flows as well.

And of course, meetings…

There are the usual bunch of Scrum-based meetings: planning meetings, stand-up meetings, demo meetings and retrospectives. But that's not all. Most managers organize one-on-ones with their own people, and they have management team meetings, while other people attend functional-level meetings. And we should not forget our regular Academy sessions for self-development, and quality improvement sessions for organizational learning. Oh, and did I mention our business update sessions, where we assemble the whole organization for company-wide updates?

On the other hand, some of the most powerful information channels are the informal ones…

People use pair programming to exchange ideas and knowledge while doing their jobs. They keep themselves informed with blogs, RSS feeds, and shared bookmarks. The annoy the office police by hiding our beautiful office behind posters, whiteboards, and sticky notes. And they elude management's attempts at top-down information control by doing a fair share of their communication during their coffee, lunch and smoke breaks.

Did I forget any?

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Yet this still wasn't enough, and I started promoting Twitter. Here's why:

  1. Every organization has islands of communication. Some information doesn't travel across these islands because the type of information is not carried easily on the flimsy strands of communication between those islands. Twitter can help here. It told me about @lemoentje's new blog, and which of our employees have been in @roelsn's bath.
  2. Our company itself has been an island in a stream of information. There's a lot going on in the world that our people didn't know about. Twitter helps to alleviate this. Twitter was the first to tell us about Google's GMail problems, tips for Product Owners, and the plane crash at Schiphol.
  3. And to be honest, a company that designs and creates web solutions, and that carries the word innovative in its name, cannot afford not to be on Twitter. It's the fastest growing social phenomenon on the planet!

So far it seems to be working. Our people are sharing tips, bookmarks, questions, and personal events. The Twitter adoption level in our organization has grown to more than 30% in a short while. I even heard people suggesting to use it for official announcements (which I argued against).

But doesn't Twitter add to the information overload?

Sure, but only if you allow it. I've never heard of a project failing because of too much information. It's always little or bad information that's at the root of problems. And besides, it's useful to be among the first to know things. (My friends on Twitter already knew this article was coming…)

So, how do I join this twitter stuff then?

Well, I just told you there's plenty of information available. Why don't you try and find out?

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