Is face-to-face communication a thing of the past as social media, email, and the like continue to take over our lives? I guess that all depends on how you’re using it. One thing you can’t deny is that slowly, but surely, online communication is finding a way into your everyday life. I still very much apreciate in-person conversations, but the reality is, sometimes a quick email or text can do the job just as well, underscoring a change in day-to-day communication.
Having said that, emails, texts, and a social media can become a jumbled mess of conversations across different platforms. We all probably lose quite a bit of time searching for important information across our communication exchanges. What are we to do, and how do we keep track of everything? A popular solution seems to be Slack. The founders of Slack like to think of it as a tool to improve the productivity of organizations and not contribute to a slacker environment.
Getting into a deep dive of what Slack does could get quite lengthy, so I’ll briefly tell you, and then apply a couple of my thoughts directly to fleet management. In a few sentences, Slack brings all of your communication together in a way that you can sort. For example, you can store conversations in public folders, topics shared within your organization; private folders, more sensitive topics shared with specific people; guest accounts, shared with external folks such as contractors; and more. But it’s more than searchable archived conversations, as documents are also archived and searchable, including PDFs, Word documents, and Google Drive documents. It doesn’t stop there, either. Slack offers access to over 1,000 apps and makes that content available if integrated with your account.
Here is an example. It’s 25 degrees out, snowing sideways, and your tech is out on a road call because your Human Services Department had an urgent matter to deal with. The car won’t start because it doesn’t recognize the key, and the tech is armed with nothing more that the few basic tools for repair, none of which will work. There is a simple procedure that anyone can do but it is multiple steps, and unless it is done exactly as specified, reprogramming won’t work. The tech remembers there was once a PDF file shared and he has the Slack app on his work-issued on-call phone. Bingo! Open Slack, enter the search and up comes the key relearn procedure shared last year via text message.
The point is quite simple. In order for things to continuously improve, change will always be needed. Often times, fleet managers are very concerned with core issues such as shop operations, budgets, meetings, and other KPIs as they should be. But let us never forget the one key ingredient that bonds all of this together — communication. The only thing that is consistent about communication is that it's forever evolving and I am near certain that improved communication will almost never lead to less productive organizations. Many fleet operations at one point or the other have had a major communication disconnect between the shop and the management; it is never too late to fix that with technology.