Matt Cromwell Avatar
Your tools are just that, tools, not outcomes. Don’t let your tools dictate where you work, how you work, or how well you and your team enjoy your work together.

If you’re like me at all, you get shiny toy syndrome at the drop of any new tech tool that scrolls across your feed. I love seeing and testing new software, new tools, and wondering how they might revolutionize my workflows.

Spoiler alert: they are not going to revolutionize my workflow, ever.

Software and tools are mediums, not outcomes. They are something we as leaders use to help achieve outcomes.

But some tools are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to contextualize them as what they are. Like Gmail, Slack, Asana, Google Calendar, or Google Maps. It’s hard to think of our day to day routines without these things. Which is what makes them amazing, but also a bit of a trap.

Don’t Let Slack Dictate your Communications

Take Slack, for example. Slack changed the way remote teams communicate, and overall for a net positive. Instead of chain-emails we now have threaded conversations with :pandabutt: reactions. Slack is great at helping remote teams communicate.

But there’s a trap here. What do we do when a project you’re working on is relevant to multiple Slack “teams”. Well, often we create DM groups. Or we maybe create a temporary team just for the length of that project. These are workarounds to a simple communication need virtually every company has at some point or another.

Don’t fall for the trap of defining the medium as the outcome.

"Don't fall for the trap of defining the medium as the outcome." ~ The Medium is not the Outcome Share on X

We do these workarounds because we’re trying to do what’s natural to us, but unnatural to the medium. In some ways, the medium is dictating how we’re going to interact with each other.

What happens years down the line is there’s a ton of random Slack “user groups” or temporary channels. New hires get confused or distracted, and the only people the know what they are for are those with years of accumulated company knowledge.

One of my personal mantras is “It should work like it says on the box.” Meaning, our team communication should be relatively obvious to any stranger that happens to be dropped into our team. It shouldn’t require tons of digging to learn how to interact with your team. If there’s a single person that is storing all the knowledge of how things work, then there’s a problem. Spoiler alert: that person too often has been me in our teams.

So when it comes to Slack, don’t lean on the workarounds for short-term gains. Create channels that have purpose, use the topics to give guidance, use pinned messages to add resources or tips, archive them when they really are done. Don’t let this medium dictate how your team communicates. Instead, leverage your medium to empower communication the way you want it done.

No, you don’t need Physical Offices to be an employee or to be productive

Another thing that is a medium and not an outcome is physical offices. At GiveWP we have two physical offices, one in San Diego, and one in Hilton, New York. I’ve enjoyed some of the office culture we created, and I know the folks in New York love working physically together. In both locations, all employees have the option to work from home whenever they like as well.

Recently, some CEO’s have said some surprisingly ignorant things about working in an office compared to working at home. I’ll say it again: “Don’t fall for the trap of defining the medium as the outcome.”

CEO’s who want employees glued to desks in offices are worried about company culture and productivity. They seem to think those two things can’t happen if employees are at home instead of the office. The opposite is the truth.

I won’t belabor this point, because there is a plethora of really good data and personal experience all over the internet that proves the validity and importance of showing your employees you value them by empowering them to work from home.

The point here is that this CEO perspective comes from believing the medium is the outcome, that somehow the physical space is what makes culture and productivity happen instead of thoughtful leadership from management.

Focus on the Essentials

Instead of seeing these mediums as what makes things work, look inward. You as a leader empower effective communication and company culture. Your team members and how they engage lifts company culture; how they focus and question workflows produces more efficiency.

Your tools are just that, tools, not outcomes. Don’t let your tools dictate where you work, how you work, or how well you and your team enjoy your work together.

One Comment

  1. Dean Suhr says:

    Matt – well said!

    I would add that many mediums do not by default make for better outcomes either, i.e. a collection of shiny new tools is exactly that – a collection of tools. Each tool, like in woodworking can do a specific job really well, some tools can do multiple jobs, and if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. We need to find balance.

    We should also remember that our teams often consist of a variety of different ages, experiences, and roles. And some on the team are working on many projects, both internal and external. If every project uses their own collection of shiny tools the information flow and management can be very challenging.

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