Communication Architecture

Organizations do not give attention to their internal communication architecture. Internal communication evolves organically. Deliberately designing the internal communication architecture makes a difference.

By internal communication architecture, I mean:

  1. How does information flow?
  2. How do team members communicate with each other?
  3. When do they communicate?
  4. What is the medium they use for communication?

A decoupled(push-based or broadcast) structure for communication works the best.


Guiding principles for a decoupled communication structure:

  1. People should not be polling each other for information.
  2. There should be a specific place for information lookup.
  3. There should be pre-defined contracts for the above.

Let us go through an example. 

Imagine an organization with a development(dev) team and a quality assurance(qa) team. Dev team deploys a build for testing. After the deployment, the qa team starts testing.

One way for the qa team to know the deployment status is to poll the dev team periodically and ask whether they have deployed the build.

Another way is to create a contract for the dev team to send a Slack message in a channel once they deploy the build. 

The latter broadcasting style of information dissemination is decoupled. No one has to poll each other for information. As long as the dev team adheres to the contract, and the QA team knows the place to look for this information, it works.

A simple test to figure out your organization’s communication structure:

If a person asks you for information, and you redirect them to a person instead of telling them the steps to find the information, your organization practices the polling style of communication. 

Polling Based:

Hey, how can I get this report?

You can ask Shyam to generate it for you.

Broadcast based:

Hey, how can I get this report?

Add yourself to this email group, and you will receive it regularly.

Polling based communication has the following downsides:

  1. It is anxiety driving for the person who is seeking the information.
  2. It irritates the person who is supposed to give the information.
  3. It does not scale as the team grows.
  4. All the above lead to unnecessary confusion and aggravation.

Push based communication leads to automation. In the dev qa example, the dev team can automate the publishing of the Slack message.

For the push model to work, everyone needs to adhere to the established contract. If one does not do that, the system collapses. 

Communication forms the cornerstone of organizational culture. Internal communication can make or break organizations.

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Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

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