“There’s no problem that email can’t make worse!” – Unknown
Running across this modern-day “truism” made me reflect on the challenges that I have encountered with email over the years. I’ve experienced my share of frustration with this vital communication tool – too many, unnecessary, inappropriate, too long, missing attachments, confusing, ALL CAPS, and so on.
Any of these ever bothered you?
A key part of the Creation culture is Continuous Improvement, and so we began wondering what we could do to improve our own use of email.
Guess how many e-mails are generated by Creation people in a typical day?
Our company of about 3,000 people sends between 6,000 and 10,000 external emails each day, plus those we send internally. That’s a staggering number any way you look at it.
There were many things running through my mind as I researched email best practices from a variety of sources – the internet, prior training and current teammates. What follows are my preliminary findings and my first top 2 recommendations for improving the way we use email.
Do you want to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your work habits and help your own company succeed? Read on.
2 Easy Ways to Improve Your Use of Email
- Take Your Hands off the Keyboard
Did you know some experts believe that 93% of all communication that takes place is non-verbal and non-written?
Let’s start at the beginning. Why are we sending the email in the first place?
Is it going to someone in the same building in which we are located? If so, would a face-to-face discussion be more appropriate? If not, would a phone call be a better choice?
If you’re giving direction, feedback or recommendations that have any degree of complexity or emotion in them, a face-to-face discussion is always better.
Email is one-way communication and is a very poor method of conveying emotion. A huge part of communication is through our facial expressions, gestures, body posture and voice inflection, none of which can be conveyed adequately by email no matter how many emoticons we use! 😉 😕 🙂
- Limit Distribution & Be Clear about the Action You Want Recipients to Take
“What do you mean you didn’t do anything about it? I copied you on the email!”
There are plenty of good uses for email.
Maybe you’re forwarding an important communication or document from a customer, supplier or teammate. Maybe you’re documenting a conversation we had on a topic that needs to be communicated in writing, or needs to be sent to many people so that everyone gets the same message at the same time.
When you are sending an email like these ones, don’t fall into the trap! We tend to make two critical errors here – we don’t make clear who we expect to take action, if any is necessary, and we include too many people on the communication.
Always limit the distribution to those who need to take action or know the information!
The “To” field should only include those who are expected to act on the email. Ideally this is just one person if follow up of any type is required.
The “Cc” field should only include those that have a “need to know” for some reason but who do not need to take action on the email. That reason should not include the common “CYA” (Cover Your Assets) to prove to someone that you took action. This behavior is muda (wasteful) and is a sign of a low-trust environment.
Address the trust issue instead!
Finally, the “Bcc” field should never be used except in the special case of mass mailing of information where you want to preserve the privacy of the recipients. Using it to communicate “secretly” is a violation of trust – it’s like talking behind someone’s back.
Remember the game of “Whac-a-Mole”? Well this is “Whac-eMail”! How many emails can YOU whack?
Seriously, though, if we can all be a bit more intentional by applying some of the simple principles outlined above (and more to come in future posts plus those in this great earlier post by Landon, Are You A Slave to Email? aka Master Your Email Inbox. Today!), we can make a significant reduction in emails which will free up time for all of us. Who couldn’t use a little more time?
What do think? Is email management an issue for you? Are you struggling to stay current with your inbox? Have you had any significant email “breakthrough” experiences? Do you have some favorite email tips that you would like to share?