Benjamin
Charity

Published:

Slack Channel Evolution: A Guide for Organizational Growth

Reading time: 6min

Welcome to the dynamic journey of organizational growth! As we embark on this adventure, it’s essential to remember that the path we’re outlining is a broad blueprint, not a one-size-fits-all roadmap. Every company is unique, with its own set of experiences and milestones. While we provide approximate employee counts as signposts, they serve more as a guide than a rigid framework, helping us anticipate and plan for the evolving needs of our organization.

A person multitasks using Slack on a laptop and a mobile phone in a cafe setting, managing communications across multiple devices.
A person multitasks using Slack on a laptop and a mobile phone in a cafe setting, managing communications across multiple devices.

Early adoption of a structured approach is key. By establishing a clear organizational framework from the start, we can avoid the complexities of restructuring and renaming down the line. This proactive planning isn’t just about maintaining order and empowerment. When our team understands the structure of our company information, they gain clarity and confidence. They become better equipped to recognize when a new channel is needed and how to effectively organize it, ensuring that our communication remains as streamlined and efficient as our operations.

As we grow and scale, this structure will be our backbone, supporting us in adapting to change, embracing new challenges, and seizing opportunities with agility and insight.

Founding

0-5 people

During this phase, most activities are conducted within three communication channels. While some individuals might opt for a single-channel approach at this point, it is challenging if there's a strict policy of consistently utilizing threads. In the initial stages, I frequently engage in multiple simultaneous conversations, and managing notifications becomes more convenient in this manner. Here, you can begin to discern the initial elements of our organizational structure.

  • #general
  • #dept-product
  • #dept-cs

Startup

5-50 people

We need to create more department-specific and general information channels at this stage. With our growing team, we can also introduce some fun channels dedicated to pets and trips.

Setting up a leadership channel for each department is crucial now. These channels significantly shape how we work and the culture we build as a company.

As our projects involve people from different teams, we're starting to use temporary, project-specific channels. We're also changing how we handle production incidents. We now have a starting point for any incident and a structured way to create channels for each incident type. We've added a new bot prefix to help manage automated notifications from different sources like deployments, support, and marketing.

It's important to encourage everyone to mute channels by default as we move forward. You can jump into a channel if you want to, but you won't get constant notifications for every message. This helps us stay focused.

To keep things organized, use pins and channel info to store important information like who's in charge of a channel and links to relevant team or project documents.

Consider using an asynchronous check-in process. If we don't have a dedicated tool for it, we can use Slack automation to facilitate weekly and daily check-ins. This will help us stay on top of project updates and priorities.

  • #dept-people-ops - A channel for HR-related teams and talk.
  • #dept-eng At this point, it is time to split from product to help keep conversations focused
  • #dept-marketing - Around this time, it's beneficial to provide a space for those managing marketing roles, even if you don't have a dedicated team.
  • #fun-furry-friends - Pets!
  • #fun-trips - Celebrate time off and don’t limit it to vacations. Even a day trip counts!
  • Project-specific channels - #proj-sso
  • #leadership-panel - for the leaders of each department
  • #fun-hobbies - Everything from underwater soap carving to competitive knitting.
  • #situation-room - Where people convene when things go wrong.
  • Incident response channels - #ir-database-jan24
  • #random or #water-cooler - Simple chat with no topic.
  • #you-are-awesome - A place to recognize team members.
  • #announcements - Company-wide announcements.
  • Automated channels: #bot-github, #bot-salesforce

Scale-up

50-300 people

DevOps is evolving into a distinct entity as we progress, prompting us to separate it from the Engineering channel. Similarly, we're detaching Design from the Product channel. The product will continue to focus on high-level matters and important updates while the more tactical aspects shift to Design.

Along this journey, we'll reach a point where introducing regional channels becomes valuable. This necessity varies, as a company with 50 employees across three cities may find it helpful, whereas one spread across 30+ cities might not.

During this stage, we'll also need to refine departmental conversations, enabling the introduction of team and guild channels. While guild and department channels overlap, guild channels discuss the guild's activities. Therefore, while product design and organization discussions occur in the department-design channel, designers can connect with peers across teams and projects, facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration.

As we move forward, the need for dedicated IT support arises, leading us to create a dedicated channel. Integrating your knowledge base with Slack would be highly beneficial if you still need to implement it.

  • #dept-dev-ops - Split from engineering.
  • #it - General IT support.
  • #dept-design - Split from product.
  • Regional channels - #loc-atlanta, #geo-scranton
  • Team or pod channels - #team-voltron
  • Guild channels - #guild-design

Expansion

♾️

During the Expansion stage, the primary structural foundation has been laid, and the emphasis now lies on extending operations and capabilities within the established framework. It marks a phase where the organization seeks to maximize its potential and grow effectively. This stage is characterized by a concerted effort to harness the existing structure for expansion and development.

Bonus

Adding custom emojis and GIFs can be a game-changer for building a vibrant company culture. They inject fun and personality into our conversations, making work more enjoyable. Plus, they let us express ourselves uniquely, bringing the team closer and showcasing our unique identity.


As we conclude this discussion, it's crucial to highlight a key point: while our structured approach to organization may seem ambitious early on, it's a strategic investment in our long-term success. Questions about our organizational structure and channel management aren't just recurring; they're fundamental to our journey toward growth and excellence. By establishing a solid foundation now, we're not merely organizing for the present but laying the groundwork for our future, enabling us to concentrate on what truly matters—innovation, execution, and delivering value to our customers. Just like a sturdy tree, our strength doesn't only come from visible branches but from deep and robust roots. Let's nurture these roots, empowering ourselves to reach new heights and unlock our full potential as senior leaders.


🛠️ 🌟 🎯