Communications Breakdown

Lyft is growing fast, and the pain from incompatible communications platforms is growing, too

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source: Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash

I encountered a compelling section of an in-depth The Information article by Amir Efrati on car-hailing service Lyft, and how it is accommodating growth in the organization, or not, at least when it comes to communications tools:

Amir Efrati | The People Who Matter at Lyft

Lyft is coming to grips with the typical pitfalls of a growing workforce. Last week, Mr. Morelli, the engineering chief, who oversees more than 400 engineers, sent an email to much of Lyft’s staff describing broken communication problems across the company and what could be done about them.

“We are actively looking into ways to improve, as communication at this stage of our company is critical to our ability to collaborate and scale. We want to equip you with the information you need to do your work,” he said.

One issue is that different teams use different messaging services. Lyft’s product and engineering teams use Slack, while some in the legal and HR teams use Google Hangouts, said an employee. Mr. Morelli, echoing efforts by Lyft’s “internal communications team,” urged more people to use “Facebook for Work.” That way more workers could get on the same page on company-wide matters, he suggested.

First comment: Slack, Google Hangouts, and Workplace by Facebook (referred to as Facebook for Work, it’s old name) are simply called ‘messaging services’, as opposed to the more historical ‘collaboration tools’. I think it’s a sign of their widespread adoption, and their convergence and overlap with personal, non-work communications like texting and messaging apps.

Second comment: No mention of email, at all. Perhaps this hints at the displacement of email, at long last (thank all the swamp gods). Still, email has the benefit of universal ubiquity, at any rate. But yes, it is the place where knowledge goes to die.

Third comment: How did they get into this fragmented situation? But in the final analysis, can’t they simply impose order by fiat, and tell everyone to use Workplace, or Slack, or whatever tool? Yes, someone’s feelings will be bruised, but in the final analysis, any supposed benefit from the particular feature set of one of these tools over another is swamped by the benefits of company-wide communications.

So the company can make Workplace (for example) the solution for management-to-company communications. If the developers want to use Slack for their internal team communications, fine. They can set up hooks to send messages back and forth if necessary.

Fourth observation: There is no mention of communications with the Lyft drivers, who are mobile-first (and maybe mobile-only). And they are the front line of the company’s operations. Clearly, that has to be a consideration, even if the drivers are only in direct and regular contact with specific operations groups within the company.

Originally published at stoweboyd.com.

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