A short guide on the dilemmas remote-first teams face when making an important decision, and the one solution that may just work
You need to get the product team together this week to discuss and make a decision on something that affects your roadmap. Do you:
If you’re caught in this multiple choice nightmare, you aren’t alone. Most remote teams have imperfect solutions to having key discussions asynchronously – and the costs are higher than you might think.
Meetings are the default for team decisions because you can capture everyone's attention at once. But this isn't a reliable or recommended practice in remote. In fact, remote best practices and conventional office wisdom have little overlap. That’s why many companies switching to remote in the last few years have seen how quickly a day can fill up with Zoom calls where little seems to get done. That’s because:
Meetings are great for some purposes, but they certainly aren’t the best way to handle every decision a team needs to make. Relying too much on meetings is gumming up your workers’ schedules and giving them Zoom fatigue for no real reason.
If you’ve cleared the hurdle of endless meetings, your team probably decided you would try to discuss things in a more asynchronous way. The only problem is that different managers, teams and workers have different preferences and needs. Rather than having one process, your company now has many, from email threads to Asana tasks to kanban cards. This is a step in the right direction, but:
So you decided that enough was enough, and your company decided people would start one thread for every decision in Slack or another communication tool. This is a small step up: it’s asynchronous and allows people to think before they respond, and at least it sets a precedent for how to have a conversation with the team. But starting a random thread in one of your team’s many tools is still not a real solution:
So, where do you turn to create an actual, thought-out process to remote decision making?
We went through the above dilemmas ourselves in the early days of Slite. The bright side of learning about how to make remote decisions badly, is that we now know this: all remote teams need to put decison-making at the forefront of their workflow.
Like meetings, you need a firm deadline to ensure a decision gets made–it just needs to be a little more flexible than "right now". Like the free-for-all conundrum, you need to have space for different ways of thinking (bullets, comment threads, screenshots)–it just needs to be housed in one place. And like random threads, you need your decisions to be made in a tool your team already uses every day, not yet another software to slap on top of your stack.
Discussions in Slite was developed for remote teams, by a remote team. When you start a Discussion in Slite, you simplify your decision-making process, making it more calm and flexible at the same time. Discussions creates a productive, asynchronous decision-making process because it:
Plus, Discussions is hosted right where your team documentation is. That way, you can tag and link documents in your discussion, meaning you can always find your way back to a decision and you can start to make documentation as soon as you brainstorm a solution.
Like many remote-first companies, Slite had to figure out the best process for asynchronous decisions in a world flooded with ideas and software made for going into a central office. When we couldn’t find something that actually streamlined remote decisions and prioritized a good remote workflow, we made Discussions to solve the problem for ourselves and our customers. We know it's not perfect, but it's a start towards better async-first remote work.
Lauren Christiansen is a freelance marketer with a passion for content that helps teams work better, together. While she specializes in B2B SaaS professionally, in her spare time you can find her unplugged and hiking in the woods of New England.
Aron Leah is an illustrator and designer, who can usually be found thinking up new ways to clear his mind over a cup of coffee and has yet to realise the irony in that. His work is informed by an enthusiasm for uncovering meaning and emotion to develop ideas.