Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 51 (SNBC – Connect, Collaborate, Innovate)

8 thoughts on “Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 51 (SNBC – Connect, Collaborate, Innovate)”

  1. You are measuring number of emails, but isn’t the true measure (and the real goal) whether you are more productive and effective. The two primary problems with email is that it is most often used the wrong way or for the wrong type of communication / collaboration. Email has a place, when used properly. But if all you are doing is trying to get rid of emails, or if people are misusing the alternative collaboration tools, did you just move your information overload from email to your collaboration tools? Another measure is if your ‘collaborators’ are satisfied with your responsiveness and effectiveness.
    A worst case scenario would be you are spending more time jumping around in your collab environment and tools, wasting time maintaining information and linkages and finding information, and generally not being effective and responsive.

    (Just tuned in to this no-email experiment (or new way of doing business). Pardon if this was already addressed – link?)

    1. BTW, I cut down on my 50-100 emails a day maybe by 30% by not reading some types of emails, e.g. ‘conversational’ and long threads (just read the latest), emails addressed to more than 7 people (can’t be that important to me specifically). Also, I cut down the number of emails generated, e.g. by stopping long important threads and asking for a meeting (an effective one), send my emails to the one or two people that should respond or should take action, sending a link (notification) to another more effective information tool or existing info source.
      Lastly, the most effective knowledge management tools are those that allow you to integrate all of your info sources (ideally direct/easy linkage). If they don’t integrate, rather have email as the central source than checking them all of them individually multiple times during the day.

      1. Great additional commentary, Neal, sharing the ideas of how you have reduced your incoming e-mail count. I do pretty similar things, including the fact that I don’t subscribe to newsletters, don’t use Reply to All, don’t send attachments through e-mail, as soon as more people are involved a team / collaboration space will kick in directly from my inbox (Thanks to the e-mail client I am using!) and rather encourage folks to *think* before sending an e-mail, because there is probably a better way of doing this. And usually there is.

        So in a way, you are also cutting down on your e-mail processing, but most people don’t, and that’s what I am trying to change with this. Show them the light and the possibility of another world where they are much more in control of their own productivity, like myself at this very moment.

        Thanks for adding further up into the conversation! Appreciated!

    2. Hi Neal! Thanks a bunch for the feedback comments and for dropping by! Greatly appreciated! You bring in an excellent point with regards to the fact that e-mail has been misused in multiple occasions and when used appropriately, it still has got its value. Yes, indeed! That’s why the only instance of e-mails I still process through e-mail are 1:1 conversations of a confidential or sensitive nature. The rest go out of my Inbox.

      Why? Mainly because I am bringing in the network effect. There is an old saying along the lines of “There is no I in TEAM” and in my case I spend my time at work nurturing and collaborating together with my social networks sharing the workload and getting the job done collaboratively. It is no longer myself fighting the corporation using endless e-mail chains where the message gets lost after 5 to 10 exchanges, or falling into the lovely political game of abusing .CC & .BCC.

      Thus to your comments on misusing alternative collaborative tools, I must say, it hasn’t happened and the main reason why is because I spend an amount of time with folks teaching and showing them how to use properly each of those tools we use, therefore don’t create that bad habit of misusing them.

      In my case, there isn’t information overload. At all. Like Clay Shirky has been saying all along, there isn’t information overload, it is bad filtering. And I am true believer of this. I value and treasure the collaborative filtering of my networks which tell me what I need to pay attention and what not. And I do the same with them based on the relationships we have built up. So, in a way, we are all looking after each other helping geting the job done with less effort and with plenty more info and resources available to us all through social software tools.

      I haven’t shared any information details on the satisfaction of my collaborators, since I didn’t think it would be needed, but I have got plenty of instances where people have been thanking me for my almost immediate reaction to their request for help through social networks, mainly, because I got my entire network behind me and even if I am not there other folks will chime in and help out! Perhaps I could share a few of those stories during 2009. We shall see…

      And with regards to your last comments, no, I don’t jump around into the various collaboration tools out there. I eventually syndicate all of the spaces where I hang out and that basically means ALL content comes to me, in a single space and ready for me to digest and engage as I may see fit. That’s the whole beauty of using RSS feeds, that I decide what sources to syndicate to stay up to date without having to hunt them down or waste my time going to each of them every time.

      I haven’t got further links to share on this topic to help provide some further insights. However, you may want to check out this video where I explain rather extensively what I am doing. It is about 6 months already, but it will give you a pretty good idea. I am sure.

      Thanks again for the great feedback!

      1. Luis,
        Good video (and responses above). Re: Measure of effectiveness – not just that the number of emails decreased, but through your own behavior (in answering emails, redirecting to other more appropriate interaction tools), people started using email appropriately and discovered/substituted the other collaboration tools because they then realized their usefulness and application to other different types of interaction. Good lightweight and organic model for moving an organization to more effective collaboration.

        1. Great follow up, Neal! Yes, indeed, by showing people how there are better ways of collaborating, perhaps I am showing them as well how it can be done effectively, which may well be what’s attracting them to follow some of the same steps I am following myself. And funny enough, it is very rare that I get several e-mails from the same person after I have shared with them how I have made better use of e-mail and other collaborative social tools.

          I have yet to see the first person I interact with, in coming closer to the one year of doing this, that didn’t find it beneficial and went back to e-mail. It hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed…

          Thanks again for dropping by!

  2. Next step: Now you have the filtering mechanisms working (both tools and behavior), your getting the information in good ways; how do you manage and process the information, e.g. how do you relate it, organize it, create different perspectives, create ‘aspects’ or intellectual mashups, in order to use it? Isn’t this where it moves from collaboration to knowledge management and knowledge assets? Links work a bit. Wikis are a big step forward, but even they can be somewhat 2-dimensional. I’ve used wikis but haven’t participated in developing them – maybe with experience will see more dimensions. But an example tool: TheBrain. Played with it for a month. Defined relationships, some visualization, good integration of different information sources, dynamic restructuring. But still found I spent too much time restructuring cause it started to get messy – could have been I hadn’t developed the mental model of the tool yet, or its capabilities, or just trying to be too structured. Thoughts on tools/tool types to bring together the information, have meaningful relationships, and adding some structure?

    1. Hi Neal, thanks a lot for another great follow up! I think that there is a distinction we need to make in this whole conversation, between the traditional concept of tacit and explicit knowledge exchange. Most of the interactions we do through e-mail are of the nature of a tacit knowledge exchange, pretty much like you do with social software itself.

      For more complex processes where Intellectual Capital needs to be built up together, the tooling is different, falling under the category of traditional Knowledge Management Systems, which we still do use in the company for that structuring of the information into IC and assets.

      You bring in a very good subject with regards to structured and unstructured information in the corporate world. In my experience, I get constantly exposed to unstructured information vs. structured information and, as such, there isn’t much more that needs to be organised, put together in assets, etc. etc. That unstructured information is reasily found with a powerful corporate search engine, which is what we have and which I would use whenever I would need to find the right information at the right time. For the rest, I like living in an unstructured world, with very little structure overall, because that’s what’s allowing me to have access to more resources as well as knowledge workers sharing their experiences and knowledge in a very informal way.

      Also over the course of the years and in my role of a Knowledge Manager, having worked all along in the KM field, I have come to learn how Knowledge Management is probably a very good oxymoron, because all along we have proved one thing: the fact that we cannot manage knowledge. We never did, we never will, probably.

      Check out this excellent blog post from John Bordeaux to get some additional perspectives in what I mean.

      Plus, finally, with my involvement in social software for the last 6.5 years I have come to realise that what really matters, at least, to me, is no longer content per se, but more the relationships and connections I make, nurture, work on to develop, because those are the ones that are going to take me to the right content, right when I need it.

      Thanks again for the great conversation! (Enjoying it quite a bit!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *