What to do about email

24 May

David Tebbutt has written an excellent article for Information World Review: Ready for the rebirth of email? (I’m late on this, but then I’ve been on leave and deluged by emails…)

He’s so right. Email is too valuable a communications tool for it to be strangled by spam and thoughless overuse. I endorse his advice to outlaw group copying or ‘reply to all’.

Here’s a question. What proportion of your organisation’s emails are internal, and what proportion external? Freelancers have a perfect business model in that 100% of messages must be external. But for most middle managers in large organisations, internal messages represent, I suspect, the vast majority. It’s similar within a university, though if I define students as external on the grounds that they are equivalent to customers, I find to my pleasant surprise that 87% of my inbox is from external correspondents. Perhaps I’m simply quicker to delete my colleagues’ messages. What’s in your inbox?

3 Responses to “What to do about email”

  1. Owen Lystrup 24/05/2006 at 6:49 pm #

    In my work with LearningChange, Richard, my e-mail inbox is constantly filled with internal e-mails.
    Most of my work is not done directly with clients, so I don’t know how much help I will be, but I’m always being e-mailed from internal sources.
    However, I think what is unique about my company is that we don’t have cubicles or offices. It’s a small company, so anytime any employees or other partners need to speak with someone, they can just yell across the office or walk over to his/her desk.
    To me, I think that is invaluable in the workplace. Personal communication is just so much easier. And I like having unlimited access to all the partners in the company. It saves so much time in not having to write an e-mail or wait for a response.

  2. Ed Kohler 24/05/2006 at 9:49 pm #

    What are you proposing as an alternative to internal email? More meetings? Phone? Stop communicating with coworkers?
    Personally, I’d have an easier time giving up external email communications than internal.

  3. Owen Lystrup 28/05/2006 at 8:32 am #

    I wasn’t suggesting anything in particular.
    Every company is different.
    Of course personal communication–face to face, real communication–is much easier and more effective than e-mail or telephone.
    I don’t think you could give up any form, and certainly every workplace lends itself to a different type. Most use e-mail.
    My company is lucky enough to allow personal communication (because of its small size) with all employees and partners.

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