I think we can all relate to moments of miscommunication via email, text message, or even social media. Communication via any text medium online can quickly result in a battle of he said she said or negative undertones that translate to bad office dynamics. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid miscommunication when we use Asana. So, what practices do you have for preventing miscommunication in Asana? For instance, do you have tips for writing helpful task descriptions or even organizing tasks in a way that everyone on your team can understand?
I try to prevent miscommunication in Asana by 1) acknowledging that I’ve seen a message by “liking” the message and 2) being overly obvious and at times redundant in my meeting goals and task descriptions to ensure that everyone is walking into a conversation with the same important information.
Our company, Onboardify, runs our customer service on Asana – so good communication with customers is essential to their satisfaction. As the CEO, I believe it’s critical to reduce the time to respond, and increase clarity in responses. Here is what has helped us achieve clarity in Asana:
First, bring all client emails directly into Asana. No more “did you see that email from our largest client - she seems upset?” water cooler conversations. If it’s in email, it must be in Asana. We have a little edge above everyone else in getting those emails directly into Asana projects.
Use Asana custom fields to know what stage a customer request is in. Often, a customer issue requires escalation to engineering. In our custom fields, we ask our developers to always first estimate a request, then mark it in progress, then mark it when it is deployed. A QA engineer looks for everything deployed, so it can reach the tested phase. Custom fields helps us do the baton-handoffs faster.
Show everyone in client management how to run the “What is the task distribution by Assignee?” report. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t know how to create something like this in Asana. But, once they do, they know exactly who’s working on what, and can communicate back to clients.
So those are three tips we’d like to offer anyone who’s managing client requests that require a handoff from the client manager to internal teams. Knowing what needs to be tested, for example, is important for anyone in creative agencies, or in technology teams. Knowing how many items are open, and who’s working on them is helpful to estimate when a project will complete. These greatly improve communication internally, and then back over to clients who need to know.
I use the @ mention feature to direct comments at specific people (otherwise it may get confusing about whether the comment is directed at the assignee or someone else). I also do the same @Alexis and the messages I’ve seen!
That’s a really helpful tip! I hadn’t thought to put so much information in a task name, but I can see how it would be valuable for people who want to reduce or avoid custom fields. #TodayILearned! Thanks @Crystal_Alifanow
@Vik_Chaudhary THIS IS AWESOME!!! Thanks for taking the time to post that. You’re making me want to use this software you’ve developed. Question though, what do you mean “We have a little edge above everyone else in getting those emails directly into Asana projects. ”? Can I have my general manager do it manually or did you mean you had one of your developers make something to do it automatically?
Hi @Sam_Leahey, happy to share, and to learn. So much about Asana to learn, this is a really great team of Asana experts.
To get email into Asana, there are ways that are manual, such as emailing email@example.com to get specific conversations into Asana.
By my comment, I meant that we (our team at Onboardify) have built an Asana connector called Dossier that automates emails<=>Asana. It is available to anyone, so that “edge” comment isn’t exactly accurate. You can have the edge, as well . It’s available at http://www.dossier.work.
Some good answers here already, it’s great to have a community like this.
Something that’s extremely helpful that I don’t see mentioned yet is using screencasts — this has been crucial in my own business and in consulting clients on collaboration it’s often overlooked.
The best intentions for communicating via text can go sideways if you and the other people on the Task aren’t fully on the same page. Sure, you could setup time for a meeting to go over those things together with screensharing or in-person but many times a quick screencast (or a good screenshot with annotations) can do wonders for communication.
There are some great tools out there to make this easy, a popular one recently is Loom if you’ve never tried screencasting to add valuable info to a task — I highly recommend trying this out. What’s different about Loom is that it uploads the video while you are recording so as soon as you are done it’s ready to send, that makes it very convenient. (No I don’t work for Loom, I actually use other tools personally because I’ve been using them for a while but for new users I almost always recommend Loom now because it’s so quick and easy to get up and running).
Other tools I use are https://screencast-o-matic.com/ (great for longer training videos because there’s some advanced editing features), Screenpresso.com (I like this one because I can upload to my own custom domain for sharing) but it’s only available for Windows.
What a great topic. Thank you for bringing it up. Our company is lucky - I don’t think we’ve had any significant miscommunications in Asana… yet! Below I’ve detailed some of the conventions that I think have contributed to our success.
That said, where we struggle more has to do with our employees learning how to break down complex projects into effective tasks assigned to the right people. Less about communication, more about planning and PM skills.
We use the simple naming convention “Verb+subject of task” for each task title. It sounds simple, but many people will name a task “blog post” but it won’t be clear what the actual action is that needs to be taken! By ensuring that our entire team starts every task with a verb - “write blog post,” “proof blog post,” etc. - miscommunication goes way down.
We also put a “deliverable” in every single description. This is a plain-as-possible statement that answers the question “How do I know when it’s done?” So I might make a team member a task called “Draft documentation for X program” and in the description, above everything else, write “Deliverable: Google Doc with same stylesheet as our other documentation; in Drive directory >Marketing>Documentation.”
We talk a lot about Asana’s scope with our staff. In our company, Asana has one job: organize and clarify our work so we get it done on time. It has communication tools that are super-necessary, but it’s not FOR communication. That means when something is important (or we receive something we don’t understand) we text, call, or otherwise use other channels to create whatever understanding is needed.
We set the expectation of Inbox Zero each day. Like you, we “like” tasks to show that we’ve seen them. But we also have the expectation set that a) every task has a due date, b) every task has an assignee, c) everyone archives everything in their inbox each day.
We have a role on the team called the “Asana Wizard” who devotes about 2 hours each week to checking every single Project and each team member’s public tasks for issues, both my browsing and using saved power searches. The Asana Wizard is a rockstar when it comes to our conventions and project management. She looks for really ineffective uses of Asana and also great ones. She calls up people to coach them and fix ineffective uses, and congratulates team members for using best practices or innovating awesome ways to organize work and collaborate. This ongoing training and coaching piece is a HUGE hit on the team and has boosted our productivity in an enormous way.
@Nathan_Sudds love these suggestions. Great for communicating with coworkers in other offices. I use Awesome Screenshot plug-in with Chrome for simple image screenshots and annotations but I love having the casting options.
@Jack_Cuneo What a fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing. I love that you have an Asana Wizard. I’d love for us to have that role. Dedicating 2 hours to do that may be tough for us but could be a great goal.
I love what you say about communication:
It has communication tools that are super-necessary, but it’s not FOR communication.
I’ve thought about that a lot over the last few weeks. Old habits die hard and I WANT to minimize hallway conversations and constant interruptions. So I’m working towards getting everyone to ask quick questions and updates directly relating to a task/project in Asana. But I still want them to know that my door is open for assistance and guidance. But you’re right, at the end of the day, Asana is a to-do list. We use Skype on our computers for things that need to be answered quickly.
Also, I have a weekly or bi-weekly 1-1 with each person on my team and am directing them to use this time for us to review more in-depth all of our common projects & tasks. That’s where we can adjust deadlines if need be and talk through any issues.
I also like your suggestion about “Inbox Zero”. For me, this is the most overwhelming part of Asana. It makes me feel bombarded and unorganized, though that’s not the point of it. I’m still trying to find how to really work with it.
Totally get it. I try to think of all those interruptions and questions asked as investments. If each moment of connection leads to that team member being able to do all of their work with a little more effectiveness and confidence, me investing that time will pay huge compound interest over the coming weeks and months.
That said, sometimes you gotta crank. I block periods of time in my calendar when nobody gets to bug me and I will not answer my phone. At first I had FOMO around this. “What if something really important happens? What if my team totally breaks down and needs me?” Hasn’t happened yet. I think that might be an ego trip more than anything.
Regarding Inbox, I used to hate it, now I love it. Inbox Zero as a commitment was all it took. Every so often I fail at Inbox Zero, and it immediately feels terrible and overwhelming again. So I got no more tips there, just the one that really worked for me.