Posts Tagged ‘email’

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 6

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on November 11th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

I worked in an organisation that had ‘the three phone call rule’. It went something like this: within three phone calls, you will find someone who can help you with your problem. No one ever carried out a study at that time to ascertain whether or not it held true or was simply apocryphal (in the dubious authenticity sense). But it was a well known part of a very strong culture of informal collaboration.

Working in a central senior role, I knew many people and had knowledge of most major initiatives. And so nearly every day I would receive an unsolicited phone call from someone that would begin ‘I know you won’t know the answer to this question, but you might know the person who will…’

Think about email. Your email network in an organisation is usually limited to people you know or engage with on a regular basis. Of course, if you are game you can send an email to @All_staff, but that usually meets with severe disapproval from the IT and Communications teams.

What you really need is to find people who know. You already know who you know.

I also recall, with a shudder, being expected to update a skills profile within a people management tool. Regularly. I’m not a big fan of that as a solution – it’s always an additional task, there is no context around the skills update to link it to a project or activity (and if I want to go that extra mile it means substantially more work), and quite frankly, if I am searching for assistance then context is important. For that I need dynamic information.

So will moving interaction into social networking tools broaden your contact list? Absolutely.

Social networking tools let you broadcast a request for information in a non-threatening and non-spamming way. You might not get much of a response the first time, but as the community grows the returns will improve.

Wiki knowledge repositories link content and author, so the first step of the three phone call rule could ideally be replaced by an intranet search.

There is a great deal of discussion in many forums about the value of social networking and engagement externally for organisations and government. But there are huge advantages internally, within teams, business divisions or across departments.

And in case you think it’s just a nice to have, consider this article today reporting the NSW Ombudsman, about the failure of the Joint Guarantee of Service for People with Mental Health Problems (JGOS). It stated ‘a NSW Ombudsman’s investigation has found the scheme has not worked because of poor communication between organisations.’

A key reason was confusion over when client information is able to be shared.  And not sharing information has put people at risk. Your risks or objectives might not have such dramatic results, but they are important to your business.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 5

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on September 21st, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Compliance. Compliance. Compliance.

When it really comes down to it, how much do you know about the conversations your people are having on email? Long before the highly visible ‘wish I hadn’t said that’ contributions on Facebook, Twitter and numerous other social networking sites, all manner of jokes, personal conversations and transactions were humming back and forth on email.

And for a significant number of people in most organisations, they still are.

Generally organisations have an acceptable use policy, and recognise that tools such as the phone and email will be used for personal matters at some stage. For many people and organisations, email is still the primary tool for transactional interchanges.

But because so many of those email conversations are not generally visible to the world at large, organisations don’t appear to attach the same risk profile to them as we are seeing with employee contributions on social networking sites (although emails can still go viral – here’s a recent example). Maybe that’s because the fallout to brand and reputation is so visibly dramatic with social networking. And perhaps because the email genie is already long out of the bottle.

Leaving aside the knowledge implications of all that information wallowing in email boxes there may also be compliance reasons to investigate the toolset your organisation is using.

Consider this. Your organisation contracts with customers or suppliers. The contract is captured in a word or pdf document. It is usually filed on a server. And then everyone gets on with the business of working under that contract.

The people involved may well email back and forth on many aspects of the contract – interpretation, delivery, terms, service levels. That people understand their limits of authority is critical (that is, what they are entitled to offer or agree to on behalf of the company), and the potential to state something in the email that will alter the terms of the contract and bind the company is high.

Representations will bind an organisation even when an email has been deleted. We’re talking here about emails, but document management protocols – or lack thereof – in a company can cause grief for a very long time, as evidenced by the Rolah McCabe case.

For many organisations, document management systems that link all transactions or conversations with the contract, or primary agreement, are essential. It provides both visibility of the entire transaction, over time, with an audit capability to ensure compliance. Toolsets won’t solve a compliance issue, but as part of a solution they will dramatically increase the visibility of the process.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 4

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on August 19th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

A manager who worked for me mentioned one week that he needed to come into work on the weekend. We worked for a company that did more than pay lip service to work/life balance, and so I quizzed the manager on the reasons for the extra hours.

‘Swamped with email’ was the response. So I asked the manager to carry out a quick task. I asked him to check how many of the emails in the ‘overload’ were in direct response to an email the manager had sent out.

Not surprisingly, the answer was up around 90%. And not surprisingly, a number of those emails were to members of our own team.

What we found was that email wasn’t helping us make decisions and solve problems on some issues. It was just extending the interaction, or delaying it. A bit like playing tennis. When the ball is on the other side of the court it is someone else’s turn!

So much interaction on email is kept between two people. It’s not visible, and it can sometimes be easy to add to the problem, not resolve it. Not much beats face to face interaction, or a phone conversation of course. But there are tools which, because of their openness, transparency and immediacy, make the process of discussing, agreeing and actioning more efficient.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 3

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on August 19th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Email is linear. Point to point. So it’s direct. That’s good. In business, that’s useful.

Think about usual email interactions. One person to one person. Or, if the conversation is within a team or project, one to many.

But if the results of that conversation need to be communicated more widely, it can become many individual ‘ones’ back to many. And it can spool off into many more ‘one to ones’. And at that stage readers are often wondering whether they are still needed in the conversation.

At that point, the original point of the email might be so far back in the thread that you can’t recall it, or completely lost if you have come to the conversation late.

If it is a long running or complex issue, bringing a latecomer up to speed with the ebb and flow of the conversation can be almost impossible.

So email has a role within organisations. No argument, but its ubiquitous nature means it is often the default tool. And there are better tools available for a lot of the interaction organisations need.

In many organisations there will be real value in taking specific conversations or interactions, which currently run through or are fuelled by email, into Enterprise 2.0 tools. Yammer (an inhouse Twitter) or other instant messaging tools can connect all people on a project or in a team much more quickly and fluidly than email. Quick exchanges can complement the work people are doing without a massive personal overhead.

Blogs can be an alternative to newsletters and email updates. They are more transparent, open to all, and because they capture the thread of the conversation in one place are very inclusive for new members or stakeholders.

And if there is a problem to be solved, wikis encourage group contribution and visibility more effectively than email will. They capture the collaborative output and knowledge for subsequent use.

Organisations should consider leveraging any skill and capability that employees bring in using social tools – the willingness to connect and share, the transparency. While there will always be people wedded to email, there might be people you can actively encourage not to become wedded to email!

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 2

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on July 30th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

So what does your organisation do with corporate email archives when a person leaves?

In the past two days we’ve had online conversations with two people, both of whom have mentioned efforts they’ve taken to set boundaries around the time spent on email.

We think these kinds of initiatives recognise how pervasive a tool email is. We actually use it to get work done. So as we discussed in our last post, email boxes become quite a repository of information, knowledge and practical know-how.

You might argue that when a person leaves an organisation, much organisational learning goes with them. But there is probably a lot left behind in, you guessed it, emails.

We haven’t heard of too many organisations that do much more than hang onto the archive for a while (depending on their information retention policy) and then finally offload it. But we suspect there is a lot of useful information that is lost when that happens.

So what’s the answer? Trawl through email boxes to sift out the useful information? No one has the time or the resources to do that. Implement a compliance program to manage and review what is contained in email? That can be tackled as part of a document management program but it’s a big job.

I watched with interest a couple of years back as Luis Suaraz over at (a knowledge management blog) undertook to reduce his daily use of email by using social networking tools. He summarised how he did that recently on

He may work in a different role to many of those in your organisation, but the principles apply no matter what your industry.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 1

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on July 28th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – 2 Comments

‘I’m drowning in email!’ you often hear, and ‘we know email is a real issue for us’. And yet email is such a ubiquitous tool that trying to encourage alternative ways of communicating is sometimes like holding back the ocean. In an organisation trying to manage information and knowledge, there are strong reasons to increase the information management activities happening outside corporate email.

The daily interaction of email between employees reveals a rich and varied use. Questions, answers, advice, process, procedure, updates, discussions. Much of that information is knowledge – about what is happening, about how to do an activity, about how to approach an issue. And on the less formal side it is often used just to connect people.

So while formal knowledge management activities often struggle with the behaviours needed to make it happen, informal knowledge sharing and communication is happening. And it’s being captured. It’s just hidden.

If employees are usually quite willing to impart knowledge, opinions and advice in email, why? The tool is easy to use, useful in many ways because of its simplicity, highly visible on the desktop, and it helps people carry out an activity. The ‘what’s in it for me’ factor is high.

But it stands to reason that most email archives slowly become a rich knowledge base of process, procedure and know-how. Rarely is that information available to more people than the author and those they connect with. Over time, even the owner of an email box packed with useful information will find it increasingly difficult to access the high-value information and reuse it.

There are a number of social tools that provide agile and practical alternatives to email. They hit the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor and score points for ease of use. Stay tuned for more details of what they are and how your organisation might use them.