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« How to Structure When You are Small | Main | Soap Box Quote »

March 08, 2007

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I see this problem a lot in the form of occupational spam. In an enterprise with 100k employees, you get all sorts of e-mail that you could really care less about. Some of this spam comes from someone that actually has a very specific target audience, maybe 10,000 users, but since it would take them a few hours to come up with a list of 10,000 employees, and Their Time Is Important, they send it to all 100,000. If it takes even 30 seconds to realize that the e-mail doesn't apply to the recipient, that's 750 man-hours (tens of thousands of dollars) of work that you've burdened the rest of the company with, because you didn't want to spend maybe 3 hours or a day (hundreds of dollars) figuring out a way to limit your distribution. Not a very good use of company resources, if you ask me.

David - That's a great example, and somewhat tragic because I am sure it happens all the time.

I agree on many of your points, especially the ones concerning emails. But what about the information that is spread which actually creates new opportunities. Should one not CC someone just because they possibly do not care? I think much of the information sharing contribute to keeping the organisation somewhat aligned. My tip is to break up the day and have a time slot for reading emails. Turn the push into a pull so to speak.

Thinking twice before sending an email or requesting a meeting is a good idea, and one should try to compress the meetings and keep them focused. Much of the time wasted are in meetings which derives from the agenda and become unfocused.

There are of course the motivational factor of being in the "know". You know what the others are doing, you have a sense of overview and control over your surroundings.

Anyhow, a good post Lisa. Time is valuable!

Thommy - Thanks for your comment. I am not saying that we ought not communicate or CC, but I think we should focus on those messages that will lead to the new opportunities. Those messages come with a high cost too, but might be worth doing.

I think living into this mindset will also challenge us to communicate more mindfully.

Yes, there are motivational factors - and again, let's just consider the cost and be smart about it. I used to "want" to be invited to all the high level meetings because I wanted to be in the know. Now I know this is irresponsible and wasteful - as a leader, I have a responsibility to spend my time wisely and not waste other people's time.

I think part of the problems is that we tend to use email as a solution for communication when there are better solutions. For example, a bunch of people emailing a Word document to each other and trying to collect the changes is much less efficient than keeping one copy of the file and merging all of the changes in right there. People use email because in the short term it takes less time than setting up and understanding other tools.

Another thought--how much important information is stuck in people's email boxes where it doesn't benefit anyone new who joins the organization? If you are having a discussion by email between 4 people, you are pretty much keeping the discussion to your self. However if you have it on some type of organization wide forum, the information is shared and someone won't have to repeat the conversation later down the road.

I'm not sure that people communicate too much, but the certainly don't use the best tool for the job.

Much of the communication that goes on in an organization is creating and refining knowledge. When this information isn't shared the knowledge can be lost. When it is shared with people who don't need it at that point in time, people's time is wasted. The most efficient organizations have a toolset that facilitates communication without bothering unnecessary parties while retaining the knowledge conveyed for other people to use later on.

Mark - I agree, email is used for far too many situations where it is not the best approach. You make a good point about all the lost intelligence due to use of email to communicate information that would be useful to live somewhere more permenent. Intranets and wikis are somewhat designed to solve this issue, but again we have to use the tool for it to do its job.

Great post Lisa - I believe all that communication is an avoidance of intimacy - we can be seen to make an effort to communicate but avoid the actual essence of it..

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