Zooming in on synchronous and asynchronous communication
Like with any communication channel, it is essential to understand the differences between them to leverage the right channel for your business need. In this post, we zoom in on the pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous communication.
For a quick summary, jump to the post recap.
Synchronous communication enables real-time discussion, and hence, it is a great way to address urgent issues. Often, back and forth via email can be easily avoided through a meeting, quick phone call, or a drop-in.
Unclear written communication often leaves room for assumptions leading to miscommunication. A synchronous form of communication is vital for sensitive topics like feedback/review sessions, negotiations, etc. that shouldn’t have any ambiguity.
Meetings like team meetings, new member introduction, virtual/happy hours, zoom hangouts are important team-building events and are necessary for building personal rapport. With more teams opting for virtual work, these synchronous events are essential to keep the team connected.
We have all been to meetings where the participants do not have clarity into the discussion or the meeting objective, resulting in an unproductive discussion. Moreover, there are also scenarios where the meeting owner does not have the right audience to arrive at the expected meeting outcome. Whether you are the meeting owner or the meeting participant, it is crucial to ensure that every meeting you are a part of is the best use of everyone's time. An effective meeting requires good planning and collaboration amongst the meeting attendees.
Most forms of synchronous communication leverage verbal discussion. If the meeting notes are not documented, participants might not follow through on the action items/tasks, resulting in an ineffective meeting. Whether a planned meeting or a quick check-in, every discussion outcome - key takeaways, notes, tasks, action items should be documented effectively and promptly shared with all participants.
To engage in any form of synchronous communication, all participants take the out time and focus away from another activity they might have wanted to prioritize. Moreover, there is significant cognitive energy required in switching context for the discussion. Hence, this form of communication, especially unplanned like quick drop-in, phone call, etc., can be extremely disruptive for the team.
Asynchronous communication requires you to pen down your thoughts or discussion topics for others to reference at a later point in time. Hence, this form of communication is excellent for addressing complex issues that require in-depth and extensive discussion. This works well for new idea generation, brainstorming on problem statements, outlining project plans, etc.
In the modern work era that supports remote work culture, teams across the globe are collaborating every day. Individuals have their preferred working hours, which can be a function of their time zone or commitments outside of work. Asynchronous communication adapts well to this changing work culture by allowing teams to engage in the discussion at their convenience.
It is important to document discussions to drive accountability and ownership of outcomes - Key decisions, action items, etc. Asynchronous communication, by its definition, promotes extensive documentation to ensure that teams stay aligned and discussion outcomes are never missed.
Through asynchronous communication, participants have the flexibility to engage in the communication based upon their convenience and availability as opposed to following the time defined by the communication owner. This allows individuals to dedicate their productive and high focus time to deep work, free from distractions and meetings.
Asynchronous communication, unfortunately, lacks the sense of urgency that might be needed in specific scenarios. It cannot replace an actual conversation since the discussion is delayed and might be fragmented across multiple hours/days or even weeks. This, less immediate interaction, can leave the participants hanging and waiting for response.
Since asynchronous communication does not involve actual conversation or interaction between two people, it doesn't always convey the emotion and tone needed to feel connected. This can leave room for ambiguity and misinterpretation. Hence, it is not advisable to leverage this form of communication for specific discussions that require participants to feel connected, like - employee review meetings, team onboarding, project kick-offs, idea presentation, etc.