Swimming in the Ocean of Internal Communications

We’re a decentralised organisation with a very dynamic structure and no explicit chain-of-command. This only works by operating in a high-communication environment.

All staff have access to pretty much everything, and anyone can share their insights and expertise. By swimming in information, we maximise our collective intelligence. But sometimes that high volume of information can be overwhelming and it starts to feel more like drowning than swimming.

We’re continuously improving our systems to strike the right balance and serve diverse needs. We’re making it up as we go along. You’re at least as smart as anyone else here, so if you’ve got something you want to offer don’t wait for permission - just get started and pitch in.

Loomio is our main communication tool

Of couse, we use Loomio extensively internally at Loomio. In fact, we have a whole section about just that, so check it out.

Google Apps

We use the Google Apps Suite. Your Loomio email is actually a gmail account, and it gives you access to all the other tools, like Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.

Drive for collaborative documents

We use collaborative documents all the time. Google Drive handles our word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and file storage.

We love Drive a lot, but there are a few idiosyncrasies that can make it pretty confusing at first (don’t worry, it’s not just you):

  1. One counter-intuitive thing you need to understand is this idea of "My Drive". When you log in to drive.google.com, the first thing you will see is My Drive. When someone shares a folder with you, if you want to be able to find it again later, make sure you move it into My Drive. This is the Loomio folder - click the blue "Add to My Drive" button so you can find it next to you log in.

  2. Using Google apps is frustrating when you have multiple accounts. We’ll share the Loomio folder with your @loomio.org email address. If you have another Google account that you want to use, you can share the folder with your other account too. Then you’ll always have access to all the Loomio docs regardless of what account you signed in with.

  3. The other thing you need to get used to is the idea of finding files by searching, rather than browsing as you might be used to. The file structure changes as our organisation matures, which can make it hard to find something that you’ve been working on. The solution is to give your documents descriptive names, and periodically tidy them up into logical folders. So rather than "Meeting notes", call it “Product development meeting notes 2/2/15”.

  4. Make sure the document permissions are set up the way you intend. If it’s in the shared folder, you’ll know everyone has access. Please make sure the doc has been shared with all the people you want to contribute, or is set to "anyone with the link". Receiving a request to collaborate on a document and then not being able to get in due to permissions is frustrating and slows the process down. If you're not able to access a document, make sure you're logged in with your Loomio email address.

Calendar for scheduling

We ask that all staff use Google Calendar so we can easily schedule meetings and know when people are available. You can add other people's calendars to your own calendar view, and turn visibility on and off as needed.

We also have a shared "Loomio Combined Calendar" when we schedule team events. If you want people to make space in their day for your event, make sure to send them a calendar invite.

If you need to book meeting rooms in the office, you'll need to be added to the shared Enspiral Space calendar too.

Appear.in for video conferencing

The persistent space for video chats is appear.in/loomio - that's where you'll find the team for morning standup, or any time you want to join a meeting remotely.

Trello as our shared todo list

We use a bunch of different Trello boards to coordinate our work. The one everyone needs to know about is the Loomio Sprint Board - find out all about how we do sprints here. Many working groups and individuals also have their own Trello boards.

Slack for instant messaging

Slack is a really nice tool we use for day-to-day real-time chat.

You can use Slack in your web browser or download their lovely apps. If you have an @loomio.org address, you can create an account and join us at loomio.slack.com. If you have trouble getting access, ask a coordinator.

You’ll automatically be in the #general channel, which is for everyone. You can also join other channels if you want to see what’s going on in the teams. You can send direct messages to anyone, which is great if you’ve just got a quick question that you want an immediate answer to. You can "star" the channels you want to keep up with and they will stick to the top of the list.

Mostly we use it to talk about the work while we're working on it. If you work part time, or if you're not working during NZ business hours, you can ignore most of the activity on Slack and just pay attention when someone mentions you.

It can be really helpful to stay logged into Slack whenever you’re at your computer, so that if someone has a quick question for you, you are easily contactable. It’s not desirable or healthy for everyone to be contactable at all times, but the more you can be logged in to Slack, the more frictionless our daily comms can be.

We also integrate our Loomio with Slack, so when new Loomio discussions are started, a notification automatically gets posted in the relevant Slack channel.

Putting it all together

Loomio comms chart

Here’s a common pattern you’ll see people use when they’re taking on a piece of work:

  • Start a new document somewhere within the Loomio folder on Google Drive - this will mean everyone on the team will be able to access it

  • After you've sketched out the first draft, you might share a link to the doc in a Loomio discussion or in a Slack channel or an email, and get a couple of people collaborating on the doc together.

  • Maybe you'll then post the document on Loomio to get further comments and move toward a decision, schedule a workshop by sending out calendar events, or bring the topic up at Sprint Planning.

Asking for help

If you have a question about something you’re working on, you can talk to a coordinator. If you have a question about anything else in the co-op, you can ask your steward, ask on Slack (in a group channel or direct message), or email or tap the shoulder of any individual in the co-op.