Regaining control over email for all communications

I have worked with lots of teams who want to regain control over email as the dominant mode of communication in the workplace. One of the most effective techniques is to gain consensus on how to make best use of available technologies to support the most effective communications in the workplace. The table below shows communications standards that describe how some of the teams I have worked with have decided to use different technologies to communicate amongst themselves and with others.

Don’t get me wrong email is useful for certain types of communication activity. My point is that it is not suitable for all types of communication activity. In fact, when used as the default or only tool for all communications it can cause significant productivity drain within teams. The table shows the breadth of technologies at our disposal and most importantly describes appropriate usage scenarios. When adopted I have seen profound outcomes achieved such as increased productivity, reduced stress, improved communications competence and better work satisfaction.

I personally prefer to see emails as a form of letter. I use them for formal correspondence where an audit trail is required. Plain English, accuracy, spelling and grammar are vital. The suggested technique of using agreed headings at the beginning of all email subject lines to help the recipient to quickly determine the action they should take is very simple but very very powerful. Another technique I like to adopt is to open my email client for half an hour at the beginning and end of each workday. The rest of the time I use the other technologies as they are more effective and efficient in supporting the communications activities I am undertaking.

Technology Examples What we will use it for
Face to face Team meeting One-to-one or group communication where shared understanding is important. This might include scoping, planning, setting goals, reporting on progress, presenting ideas and consultation
Knowledge cafe
Email Outlook Formal correspondence requiring audit trail.
Groupwise We will use the following headings at the beginning of all email subject lines to help the recipient to quickly determine the action they should take.
Yahoo mail FOR COMMENT
Communicate courteously and professionally
Use plain English and ensure that spelling and grammar are accurate
Target your e-mails at those recipients who specifically need to receive them and do not copy in other people unnecessarily
Do not send ‘global’ e-mails unless absolutely necessary
Avoid sending attachments with large filesize. Attach them to websites and send hyperlinks instead.
Never circulate ‘junk mail’
Phone Landline Regular one-to-one communication to support operational activities where the personal touch is important. This might include seeking advice, explaining, negotiating, buying and selling.
Conference calls amongst groups where shared understanding is important and it is not possible to hold a face-to-face meeting.
Calendar Outlook To keep a record of our meetings and activities to support our work
Groupwise To inform others of our whereabouts and activities
Google calendar We will record name of person, detail of activity, location and duration.
SMS Mobile To communicate urgent issues where either party is not available to speak on the phone.
When both parties are online instant messaging is preferred.
Website Corporate messaging to our customers
Quality assurance is essential
Instant messaging MSN messenger To indicate online presence
Yahoo messenger Asking questions the require an immediate response
AIM Informal conversation
Skype Better than email for conveying emotion in conversations through use of emoticons
Adium Rapid file transfer where filesize is relatively small
Voice over internet Skype When two or more people are present on-line and indicate that they are willing to talk
iChat Do not use with large numbers of participants in low bandwidth situation
Some tools have a conference call limit of 10 users
Video over internet Skype When two or more people are present on-line and indicate that they are willing to talk and have video / webcam capability
iChat Can help to convey presence and emotion in conversations
Do not use video in low bandwidth situation
Newsreaders Newsgator Keeping up to date with our favourite online sources of information
Newsnetwire Useful to overcome reduce email inbox overload and read news in controlled manner
RSS enabled browsers e.g. firefox, safari
Online groups within social networking sites Facebook Asking questions and providing answers where persistence provides benefits. This builds up knowledgebase for others to search as starting point when seeking help in future.
Google groups Debates where the views of more than two people are helpful.
Yahoo groups Sharing news, links, documents and other media (video and audio)
Wikis Media wiki Collaborative writing to support regular operational activities e.g. creating meeting agendas and writing action notes.
Tiki wiki Collaborative writing to support the co-production of specific products e.g. reports and books.
Wetpaint We will put a statement at the start about the arrangements for editing.
Video conference Support team working. When visible presence required.
Webinar Webex Online seminar for use where face to face seminar not possible

Comments are closed.