Communicating With Sports Mogul Inc.

Simply put, Sports Mogul Inc. has a policy to use asynchronous forms of communication whenever possible, as opposed to synchronous forms.

Synchronous forms of communication, such as the telephone and face-to-face meetings, require that both parties are synchronized. That is, they are both paying attention to the communication at the same moment in time.

By contrast, asynchronous forms of communication, such as email and instant messaging, allow each party to receive the content on their own schedule. The listener doesn't have to be present and paying 100% attention at the exact moment that the content is delivered.

Here are some of the reasons we limit our business communication to asynchronous forms:

1. Synchronous Communication Contains Implied Promises

Consider the following phone call:

Developer: Hello?

Publisher: Melissa, it's Dave. How's it going?

Developer: Okay.

Publisher: How's the team?

Developer: Good. Working hard.

Publisher: I was thinking we need to find a way to add two more levels to the product.

Developer: Okay...

Publisher: ... and we definitely can't push back the schedule.

Developer: Right.

Publisher: So I'm thinking I should fly out there for a meeting.

Developer: Okay. All the leads are in the office this week.

Publisher: Great. I'll email my itinerary.

It's quite possible that the publisher in the above phone call thinks that the developer agreed to adding two levels to the product, without pushing back the ship date.

Meanwhile, the developer doesn't realize that anything of this was conveyed. She was just acknowledging the requests made by the publisher, without providing any commitment that those goals could be reached.

When the publisher comes to visit, he'll assume that the point of the visit is to just work through the details of how two more levels will be added without changing the schedule (or budget). But the developer is assuming that the meeting is about figuring out *if* the new features can be added.

I've seen this happen on more than one occasion. But I've never seen it happen when changes are requested through asynchronous communication (like email).

2. Asynchronous Communication Is Easily Recorded

At the least, if a communication stream between business partners is going to contain promises, it should have a way to record those promises for future reference.

The only way to unambiguously resolve a dispute (between colleagues, or between companies) is to discover what was originally agreed to. This is much easier with email or AIM that it is with a phone call or face-to-face conversation.

3. Synchronous Communication Interrupts Flow

A study done by IBM showed that computer programmers who could turn off their telephone were 56% more productive than those who couldn't. Those with private offices were 73% more productive.

4. Asynchronous Communication Reduces Pressure

There's a reason that sales calls are done in person or on the phone. Synchronous communication includes a social pressure to be polite and to confirm. For example, if a charitable organization calls me at home, I simply tell them that I don't give over the phone. I only give to companies that can advocate for their causes in a way (such as online and print) that allows me to reflect and consider how much I'd like to give. I don't want to get into a negotiation with a cold-caller; or tell them that starving babies are not worth my money; or question their authenticity; or have my decisions affected by the persuasive skills of the person who happens to be calling.

The free market -- individuals and businesses deciding freely what agreements to enter into (such as what deadlines they feel their team can meet) -- work best without this pressure.