You know the pain: You're on a team, likely in a support role covering the phones on shift work taking calls from clients. Or, perhaps you're on a project team, covering some critical piece of the puzzle, or waiting on a colleague to close out their piece so you can move forward... And your inboxes are bulging at the seams with both critical information as well as those "nice to know" status updates.
In so many cases, we all find ourselves under this barrage of status update emails, FYIs, and other important, yet immediately unnecessary and irrelevant messages. Do we need to know that you'll be off the phones for the next hour or two? Do we need to know you're working from home for half the day? Yes, we likely do. Do we need to know that information right now? No, we only "need to know" when we need to know, and likely will only care or even remember if the information gets to us right at the moment we need to know. Is an e-mail the best, most effective and efficient way to let people know? Likely not.
But what IS the better way? That answer, dear readers, all depends on your team. There is no single best practice or use case to follow here. Each team has differing needs and demands based on location, shift, task, or even management preferences. While I can't do anything for the last, perhaps there are some solutions to address the others which will in turn help convince management of better ways if that is a concern:
Instant messaging statuses: Judicious use of custom status settings here can do wonders to let your team know if you are available or not, on their time, when they need to know. Going off the phones for an hour? A simple Instant Messaging status noting "Off the phones to work a problem" will cover that info for those who need to know, and will be even more appreciated once you're back on the phones and your status has changed again. E-mails aren't the best for quickly changing statuses like these.
Lotus Connections Profile statuses: Working on a project and need help? Want to promote your work? Or out of the office for the day? Updating your Lotus Connections profile status can be a simple and easy way to let people know. This is a little heavier than an IM status, but still light enough and flexible enough to allow for quick updates for often changing statuses.
Intranet wiki page:
Don't have Lotus Connections to provide robust profiles? Have no fear, there are surely wiki solutions already in place in your company, and if not, there are numerous open source solutions to host collaborative wiki pages. I'd recommend these for longer term status updates from daily to weekly as they relate to projects or other work. A table on a wiki page can be easily updated by the entire team depending on how work shifts, and updates can generate auto notifications to let you know when changes have been made... of course you'll probably want to follow those via RSS rather than e-mail
Shared Team Calendars: This one should be rather obvious, and easily implemented if you haven't already. If you're using Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook, you have team calendar functionality and should be using it. This, of course, is for more robust statuses, like days off for holiday or even illness, but shouldn't be overlooked for smaller time frames like meetings and and other time blockers. Smart use of calendaring for your team can not only provide quick views of current availability, but also provide higher level views into team dynamics and show ways to remove blockers as well.
And lets get even more provocative here... internal microblogging:
Assuming you don't want to use external Twitter or Wordpress.com microblogging themes, there ARE internal solutions to microblogging which can be used for team updates. I know the fine folks over at Automattic.com (the crew who develop the WordPress blogging engine) use an internally hosted installation of Wordpress with a robust microblogging theme for their team updates with quite a bit of success! In IBM we even have our own microblogging platform which is available company wide and mimics Twitter in the following/follower and 140 character limit paradigms, perfect for quick status updates.
Of course, implementing a Lotus Connections installation in your corporate topology will allow for nearly all of these alternatives above to be implemented in fashions appropriate for your needs. Yes, I am a bit of a fan-boy convert to the Connections Communities after having used them for the past 4 years with varying degrees of success both as a community owner as well as simple user. I really can't recommend it more, and that's not because I'm an IBMer, I really do believe in the tool!
The real key to success for any of these 'alternatives' to e-mailing statuses, is simple agreement and definition of expectations. If the whole team agrees and expect statuses to be posted to a particular solution, and then of course follows up with actually DOING that, then a successful transition away from e-mail for these use cases will be successful, and provide immediate results.
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by LivingOS
It has been four weeks since four of us (Kelly Smith, Jason O'Donnell, Matthew Quimby, Jamel Touati) from IBM Rational Customer Support organization embarked on the Amazing E-mail-Less Man adventure following on the footsteps of Luis Suarez to Work Outside The Inbox (WOTI).
So far we've covered the first three steps of the WOTI process:
- Step 1 - Stop Replying to E-mail
- Step 2 - Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases
- Step 3 - Move Conversations to the Right Home
The fourth (and last but not least) step in the WOTI process is: Step 4 - Record Progress, Set an Example and Act as a Change Agent in the organization. It might not sound that exciting, but we're confident the results will eventually be thrilling!
We've recorded our progress on a weekly basis since we started, tracking our Inbox and Outbox.
The WOTI program began in the middle of week 1 on Wednesday, February 1st (see Fig 1). In Fig 2, the data for week 1 is extrapolated and adjusted to estimate the numbers of e-mails for the missing two days to build a full week. Note that the left side access are the team totals for our inboxes, while the right side axis is our team totals for our outboxes:
We are already seeing some encouraging results!
We are moving in the right direction with lower incoming and outgoing e-mail although we are not yet ready to scream victory ... We are going through a learning process as we continue to educate people on the value of WOTI. This requires passion, persistence and patience! (It took Luis Suarez time before he moved to the Canary Islands! Where would you be if your Inbox were empty?)
We strive to set ourselves as examples, but still act in our own way as change agents in this effort. We exchange our experiences, brainstorm and share knowledge on a weekly basis about what worked for each of us.
Leading organizational change with a great idea like WOTI requires a fundamental belief that there are long term values for ourselves and the overall organization and it is very rewarding to see everyday new adopters of the WOTI way of doing business! We hope that you are also on your way with your own WOTI initiative in your organization, and we'll be very happy to hear about your progress and look forward to learning from each other.
In the meantime, recording is in progress and we'll continue to update you with our findings and experiences in future blogs ...
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by thewaxgrid
Vacation. The word alone strikes both a visceral and dichotomous chord in any and all who hear it. On one hand it triggers a wistful longing or deep anxiousness to get to it, but on the other hand, well that's where things take a turn... for those of us in the corporate world, vacation means returning to an exploded inbox after a week of ignored email. It means that even as we are away from work, basking in the fact that we have no responsibilities for the week, deep down there is that knowledge and fear of what awaits us upon our return. I'm sure at least a few of us have already recoiled in horror at the thought of actually disconnecting and taking a week's vacation.
Thankfully, a few of us in Rational Support have a tool (or rather, concept) to help us deal with that anxiety which makes returning from vacation so much less stressful: our drive to work outside of the inbox. Now, admittedly, it didn't help me return from vacation wholly without fear, but instead, it assuaged that fear nearly immediately once I did return....
Take a moment and think about the last time you took vacation.... how many emails were waiting for your return? Two hundred? Three hundred? One thousand? Somewhere in between? Enough to make returning to work a daunting proposition I'm sure!
Well, imagine returning to the office to find only 138 total emails in your inbox! Moreso, imagine 50% of those messages being irrelevant spam/sales emails and auto-notifications. That's what I came back to. Now, do the quick math and you'll see that my inbox really only held 64 messages for me which required attention... even more luckily, about half of those were only informational and didn't require any direct action. By the time Monday was over, I was nearly 100% caught up from my prior week off. Prior to our WOTI (working outside the inbox) efforts, being caught up by Monday evening would have been inconceivable; a daydreamer's fantasy at best.
The great news? Just because my inbox was reduced substantially from prior vacations' totals, this doesn't mean I am privy to less information... rather, because of our heavy use of wikis, forums, and blogs, all the information I missed during my time away is still available, relevant, and searchable. Instead of digging in to my inbox to disposition emails and categorize accordingly, most of that content was now visible in my RSS reader and already categorized and dispositioned, or even handled for me via internal crowd sourcing as an effect of the networks of connections around me.
Because this information was now being shared in collaborative spaces instead of siloed inboxes, I was able to be more effective more quickly upon my return from vacation and focus on the work that really matters.
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by Sarah_Ackerman
Are you wading through a mountain of e-mails upon returning from a long weekend, struggling to catch up? A few of us in Rational Support aren't, and here's why!
Week three of the grand "Working outside of the Inbox" experiment and we're well under way, even starting to see some great traction! People are taking notice across organizational boundaries, reading up, asking questions, and even implementing some of the concepts of WOTI on their own both internally and even externally!
The past few weeks we covered the general overview and launch of this little project: "The Adventure Begins!", moved on to detail out Step 1: "Stop Replying to Email", and then Step 2: "Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases".
Today we're back to tackle Step 3: Moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home(s). Slowly and surely.
What does that really mean though? Where do we move conversations to if not e-mail? And how can we move conversations without breaking step 2 "Stop replying"? Well, the simple answer is: we move these to wikis, forums, instant messaging, and phone calls... and sometimes you WILL have to reply to an e-mail. But, you (we) can still reduce the amount by replying with pointers to the right locations for the conversations which we've already setup.
Here's one brilliant example I witnessed since we've started this more organized initiative:
In the past three weeks my colleague Jamel Touati has been the absolute master of this by directing a number of collaboration questions (revolving around problem identification and solution discussions) to forum discussions he built out based on the initial round of emails. In his first replies, Jamel was able to direct everyone cc'd on the e-mails to the forum locations where they could review the content and continue the discussions transparently and standing as perfect examples as to why open knowledge sharing like that is so important. Now, the entire investigation and solution process is visible so anyone with similar questions can see how and why the particular solution was determined to be the correct one. Forums threads like this retain not only the core solution, but the history as well. And once a solution is determined, or an end result is finalized, that information can be distilled and moved to a wiki page for better clarity and readability with a mere pointer to the discussion thread if the history is ever needed.
I also saw a great unexpected personal win last week when I made the realization that I'd run an entire two week project (small internal tool creation) from concept to deployment without sending a single e-mail. I detail a bit of this out on my personal blog, but really the key component to this was the fact I used wikis and instant messaging to transparently collaborate and achieve my project's goal: delivery of a useful internal tool. I unwittingly proved the WOTI concept to myself; that working outside the in-box WORKS and allowed us to be more agile, more transparent, and more effective from start to delivery, and even beyond into demonstrations and minor training (I didn't even use a slide deck, rather recorded a reusable video walk-through)!
Like I said at the start of this post, we're even seeing traction outside of our own small group, and beginning to see other colleagues from within our larger organization, and even across organizational boundaries taking notice and beginning to shift their communications to better venues. It has started taking shape in the form of internal blog posts through our IBM Lotus Connections communities, as well as using "smart wiki pages" to aggregate content based on tags, allowing the conversations to be contained in one community, but made visible across communities through innovative use of RSS feeds and smart tags. Talk about breaking down communications barriers!
Of course, we may be spoiled here in IBM since we have easy access to some industry leading collaboration tools! Of course, that doesn't mean you can't have them too. And even without leading edge tools, you can still tackle some WOTI steps on your own, it's just a matter of identifying the right places for your conversations; be it internal wikis, discussion boards, or even just shared docs in the cloud (insert plug for IBM Docs in beta and available to us all, now!). And yes, to begin with, you may indeed see your out box increase slightly, but in the long run, those emails you'll be sending to guide people to the right places for conversations will fade away and you'll soon find you're using e-mail more effectively and that your work has become more open and transparent, ultimately resulting in more efficient collaboration and success in your projects. All because you were able to identify better venues to capture and share knowledge. Who knows, maybe you'll even see more personal success as people begin identifying you as a thought leader, effective change agent, and all around guru of knowledge management just because you had the audacity to simply stop using email and began working outside the inbox.
Have you started implementing some of your own e-mail reduction efforts? Have you begun your own WOTI initiative? We'd love to hear your success stories as well! After all, this isn't something specific to just Rational Support, or even IBM. Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or even through Twitter @mentions! We're chomping at the bit to hear your stories in whatever medium you want to share them
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by Casimusica
With Kelly moving on to her new role, we (she and I) thought this would make a perfect time to set another milestone on our Working Outside the Inbox (WOTI) series with some lessons learned, some failures, and some successes as well. Make no mistake though, just because we are recapping our blog series does not mean we are abandoning the WOTI ideas and principles. Far from it, in fact. As you'll find below, from our experiences with the initiative we are more dedicated than ever to using the right tools for open and transparent collaboration.
First up, where did we see our failures?
Jason: I tend to forget to not reply to emails and default back to using email when busy and unfocused. Continuing to use email when there are better alternatives for the conversation I am engaged in (or starting) was my single largest failure over the course of these past six months. I did always feel a pang of guilt when I sent "bad" email though...
Kelly: You'd think I'd know better , but I was expecting magic to happen immediately, as everyone MUST see the innate value of what we are doing. In fact, Working Outside the Inbox is a marathon, not a sprint .... rather, it's a mindshift and a new way of working, one that, through constant exposure and once embedded in one's "muscle memory", becomes the new standard way of working. Like Jason says, it's easy to fall back into old habits, or grow discouraged in the early days. Your results will not be immediate.
But let us not despair, for these failures didn't diminish our successes! Surprisingly, even without dedicated focus or and organized official initiative in place, all of us participating here found some level of reduction in frivolous email.
Jason: Anecdotal evidence showed me that after a week's vacation, my inbox was easily handled within a single day upon returning to the office, a feat unheard of prior to this effort. Most email seen is now in the form of automated notifications which I periodically disable as I add the corresponding wiki or discussion forum to my RSS Reader. All this allows for uncluttered, easy use of "good" email: private communications of confidential or sensitive nature.
Kelly: Success snuck up on me as well ... gradually more and more of the email I received was in the form of automated notifications, and only rarely does my email include slide decks or file attachments, which for me, is the biggest win of all. No more "mail jail"!!!! The volume of email I receive that needs to be processed IN MY INBOX is reduced to onsie-twosies. Everything else is handled in the right place .... Rational Team Concert for work items, commentary and documentation, Connections Communities for shared collaboration and knowledge sharing. Rational Asset Manager as our document repository. So guess what? I don't need to sit with my inbox open all day, addressing the deluge. How cool is THAT?
And lastly, what WERE our lessons learned from all this?
Jason: First and foremost, culture change is a long and difficult road fraught with speed-bumps around every turn. It is frustratingly slow and requires both a deep commitment and resilient spirit. Secondly: sometimes the right thing to do isn't the easiest. There is indeed an initial extra effort we need to take when trying to move conversations to the right tool, and this isn't always an easy task, but the benefits are readily seen once all participants in the conversation are on board.
Kelly: My biggest lesson learned ..... don't reply to email ..... rather, use your email to model the kind of collaborative habits and behavior you hope to see. If people send an email asking for information, DON'T JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION. Provide a link to where you've posted the answer/information for all to benefit from. Persevere in your efforts to work openly, transparently, and collaboratively .... it's the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do.
Shared knowledge is power!
Did you miss any of this blog series? Fret not, faithful readers, here is the complete topic list which you can also find via the woti tag:
Working Outside the Inbox: The Adventure Begins!
Working Outside the Inbox, Step 1: Stop Replying to Email
Working Outside the Inbox, Step 2: Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases
Working Outside the Inbox, Step 3: Move conversations to the right home!
Working Outside the Inbox, Step 4: Record Progress, Set an Example and Act as a Change Agent!
Working Outside the Inbox: Let's Talk About Attachments
Working Outside the Inbox: Speed Bumps ahead!
Working Outside the Inbox: Those pesky status updates
Working Outside the Inbox: Put your Inbox in the upstairs bathroom
Working Outside the Inbox: Returning from vacation
Well, it's Week 2 of the grand WOTI experiment, and things are moving along swimmingly. We've got a nice little race shaping up in the Sent email department. Jason put us all to shame Week 1, by sending a grand total of three, count 'em, THREE (3) emails, easily winning the WOTI Overachiever of the Week Award. Week 2, we're all settled in for the long haul, and so i thought it would be a good time to discuss Step 2: Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases.
Luis Suarez tells us that it's easiest to first break up the mail in your inbox into 2 categories: Things That Belong in My Inbox and Things That Don't.
Things That Belong in My Inbox
- personal/sensitive/1-1 conversations
Things That Don't
- Everything else. Potentially.
We've started breaking down the "everything else" bucket and grouping them into use cases. We'll be looking to move that information or transaction to a better home.
In a lot of cases, especially in these early days, that means transitioning closed conversations/ tasks/ knowledge-sharing to a more collaborative/open venue, and turning "bad" email into "good" email (auto-notifications). And yes, you are right.... in the short term, that does nothing to reduce the amount of email we get .... but it ensures that the artifacts of that work are shared as openly as possible, with our inboxes becoming the messaging system they were meant to be, NOT the repository of all corporate knowledge.
Here are some ideas:
- Requests for work can be better managed through work items in Rational Team Concert or "to dos" in Lotus Connections activities.
- Regular status updates/tips and tricks/project status emails can be posted as blog entries in your Connections community, and aggregated as collections through tagging.
Again, it all comes down to mindful processing of email, and spending just a couple of extra moments to stop and think .... is this the best way to share this information? Is anyone else likely to need this knowledge in the future?
Think NOT just of the immediate, tactical need for information or action, but the ability to capture that knowledge/action for reuse so that the entire organization can benefit in the future, and not re-invent the wheel, or waste time recreating knowledge assets that folks aren't sharing.
Is there a better way than email? I bet there is!
Last week Lifehacker shared out this blog post by Jesse Stormier: "Put Your Inbox in the Upstairs Bathroom". And it immediately clicked for me: living inside the inbox is just too easy. This, of course, makes the shift to living outside the inbox even more difficult, as people don't change until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.
This really can come down to a chicken or egg issue: is our addiction to email fueled by the ease of use, or is the ease of use driven by our addiction? In either case the solution, in part, is just as easy. In Jesse's post he notes how he switched from a slick GUI client and push notifications to using a command line email client, akin to putting his inbox as far away from him as his upstairs bathroom. Now, for a Unix guru that's a rather elegantly simple solution, as he is more than comfortable with the command line I'm sure. I'm even guessing it would work for a number of you reading this post here on developerWorks as well, knowing your technical excellence often has you playing on the command line.
Me? I'm lazy. While putting my inbox in the upstairs bathroom is a grand idea (my home office is upstairs, so it really isn't much of a trip at all), going as far as using Mutt on the CLI to access it is more akin to putting my inbox in my backyard, or for other people it may even be closer to their postal box down the street. Making email hard to use isn't really the point of "working outside of the inbox". Rather, the intent is to improve our collaborative efforts using tools better suited to the tasks and not automatically default to using email unless it really is the right tool for the job. So, let's make it easy!
Ok, but where's the solution? What's the recommendation? Two simple parts come to mind here:
Turn off notifications- More than anything, notifications are likely the biggest contributor to time wasted in the inbox. It is human nature to want to clear a flag, or notice, or other indicator that there is an email waiting for us. This is even more compounded if you have any obsessive/compulsive tendencies at all. The need to address a notice immediately can often be too great to ignore, and thus the interruption occurs. (Just in the time I've taken writing this post I've scurried off to deal with no less than 5 notifications about email messages arriving and awaiting my action.) So turn them off. Notices are much easier to ignore if you can't see them.
Close your email client when you aren't using it- As simple as it sounds, for me this is more akin to putting my inbox in the upstairs bathroom. I don't have to go through the extra effort of accessing it via command line, since the time taken to actively think about checking my messages then open my email client and wait for it to load is sufficient. Out of sight out of mind, right? Don't leave it running but minimized, or in another browser tab but not focused. Close it. Completely.
With these two easy bits covered, my last recommendation will be to schedule specific and focused time in your day to address your inbox messages, freeing you from the shackles of your inbox the rest of the day! I know a few people around here only deal with email first thing in the morning when they arrive to work, and last thing before they leave (in between, of course, is when real work is being done and collaboration occurring all across the organization in the right tools for the jobs at hand). Or perhaps scheduling three times to check: on arrival, right after lunch, and again before leaving for the day.
Regardless of how you go about it, finding what works for you is the key to enjoying a life outside of your inbox. I assure you, it is absolutely worth the mild pain of change!
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by eperales
Well, your intrepid adventurers have 3 days of Working Outside the Inbox
under our belts and I thought this a would be a good time to discuss in
a little more depth about how we are doing this.
start with Step 1: Stop replying to email. This step would really be more
accurately described as Mindful Processing of Email but that doesn't sound nearly as provocative and attention-grabbing, and wouldn't make nearly so many people's heads explode, which wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
So listen: this is what we are really doing.
of this as stopping the reflexive knee-jerk reaction of working in your
inbox, simply reading and replying. We've all become very well trained by our inboxes: receive an email, send an email. Read your incoming email and
Stop. Think. Ask yourself a few questions along these lines:
- is someone else likely to ask the same question?
- would this exchange, or the bit of knowledge/information shared, be of use to anyone else?
- what is the best way to share this information or conduct this transaction?
- is there a smarter, more efficient, more collaborative, open and transparent way to work?
Change begins with us (and you!)
Here are some wild and crazy ideas on how you can work effectively and openly and without being chained to your inbox:
Use the content repository or content management system of your choice as long
as it's NOT YOUR MACHINE. Don't become the bottleneck, or the
single point of failure. Put your stuff where people can find it and get it. When people email and ask you for that information, give them a link to the information where you've posted it.
Use wiki pages for knowledge
capture and on-demand access. One example, instead of keeping your
project status or metrics in a spreadsheet on your machine, think open
and transparent and provide that data on a wiki page. if your manager
expects a weekly status report, put it there.
discussion forums for collaboration, idea sharing and brainstorming.....or collecting a quick temperature check from your community. Don't conduct a lengthy email exchange with one or more people about it. Be the first to suggest there is a better way to conduct this conversation.
Use the community blog for news, announcements, and community-wide
communications. Why blog? To take advantage of all the technology that allows us to
share knowledge more widely ... tags, RSS feeds, aggregators, search....
the list goes on. Rather than sending an 800mg email that immediately
plunges 20% of your unsuspecting audience into "mail jail", try blogging your news. Oh, the
80% who aren't in mail jail? I posit that 40% will not read it anyway, either deliberately or by
accident when it scrolls "below the fold" amidst a barrage of other
people sending news, asking questions, and, worst of all, sharing files.
Besides, I bet a couple of weeks from now, someone's
going to ask you for the information again anyway.
Speaking of sharing files.... There are better ways. Instead
of mailing a slide deck to 10 people for review and comments, use Connections and if you MUST send an email, send a link to where you have
posted the file (or the wiki page from which you are working) so that
it can benefit the greatest number of people, who can then bookmark it / subscribe to it / grab the RSS feed, or otherwise self-serve
when they need the information. Which means the doc owner doesn't need to send the updated
file out to a cast of thousands either.
Oh, it all just makes so much SENSE.
no, we're not giving up email entirely, and there will be times that we
will (gasp!) send an email. We're just going to be mindful in our work
and aim to get the maximum value from each interaction.
So, stop and think.
Just because a conversation starts in email doesn't mean it belongs there.
Jason, Matthew, and I are on a mission ... a mission to take our lives and our work back from the inbox.
Email is a great tool ... for a few things. It is NOT a great tool for many things that we currently use it for today: discussions, decision-making, file sharing, file repositories, questions & answers, newsletters, announcements.
We have the collaborative technology. We have the skilz. It's just a matter of "walking the talk", and persevering. A whole lot of persevering.
So we start today, with the Luis Suarez Magical 3 Step Pattern:
- Stop replying to email
- Identify conversations/tasks (use cases) that can be accomplished more easily, more transparently, more efficiently, or with less cost with another social tool.
- Start moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home. Slowly and surely.
Honestly, I've been such a collaborative harpy for so long, we are doing a lot of this already. But now we're going to do it mindfully and consciously, and track our results like Luis did.
We'll also be providing updates on our progress here, along with the technical content you've come to rely on.
So, we knew this wasn't going to be easy. And we knew it wasn't going to be a quick project.
Remember.....we are looking to change the way people work, and nobody ever said being a change agent was easy.
So we've got six weeks of the Working Outside the Inbox under our belts. The first five weeks were GREAT. We saw steady declines in our inboxes, and in the amount of mail we had to send out, and the proportion of good mail (personal/sensitive, meetings/scheduling, and auto-notifications) was going up while the amount of bad email (newsletters, announcements, Q&As, status, etc) was going down.
Things were looking good for our fearless adventurers and we were riding the wave. Cowabunga!
Week 6? Not so much.
Which makes for a good blog topic. What about those speed bumps?
Sometimes, it all starts with one email. I'm sure you ALL have been there. One individual sends an email to a very wide recipient list. The recipients start replying .... to ALL. After a while, more folks chime in, either with their take on the situation or begging people to take the discussion elsewhere. Some of the other people on the email thread .. their heads (and their inboxes) are exploding. Several requests to move the email thread to a discussion forum prove fruitless, and there you go.
Or, you might be working on a sensitive project that is not suitable for sharing, or are dealing with an executive request (also not suitable for sharing). Sometimes email IS the best solution.
Perhaps you are working an urgent issue/project with people who are far outside your group, and driving them to a more collaborative solution is just not possible at this time. That's ok too.
Repeat after me, one more time: Change is hard.
This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. There will be speed bumps and there will be weeks that go better than others. And that's OK.
Don't get discouraged, keep on keeping on, and even when things are going pear-shaped, look for the wins. You might have a huge email thread going on, but you've also got a lot more people than ever before realizing that it's not the best way. And what about all those other wins you've realized ... use cases identified, patterns adopted. There's good stuff happening - a lot of it.
And remember, each speed bump is just another opportunity to model a better, a SMARTER way of working.
From the list below, it would appear that this past year you all were big on some of our thought leadership items. Following are the top ten (well technically eleven, but 6 fall under a single topic, so I figured I owed you at least one more) posts which garnered the largest number of views over the course of 2012:
Think Friday: YOU are a community manager
From our Working outside the Inbox series:
Preparing for IBM PureApplication System: a five part series
Happy 3 year Birthday and (2 million visitors) to us; two milestones achieved!
geeking out over grease cars
A milestone: Lessons learned co-hosting a biweekly call for 3 years
This list was built by you, and for you! Thank you all for your continued loyalty and support of this blog. As you all know we strive to get you the best support content and help you solve or avoid problems before you need us. It is you, our audience, who keep us working hard to find that content you need and who make this blog a possibility to continue. We are very happy that by virtue of your numbers, we can see that you are indeed finding value in the content we provide, and that alone makes this all worthwhile.
image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by HarshLight
When I first started writing this blog post, it was going to be about ALL the things that drive me crazy when they arrive in email. But then I realized that it was a loooong list .... a Herculean effort, especially if your inbox reminds you of the Augean Stables BEFORE the big clean-out. Unfortunately, we'll have to go about it the old-fashioned way ... one shovel-ful at a time.
So, if you too want to work smarter, more openly, transparently, and effectively, you'll need to pick your battle. One at time, look at the pain points or areas of inefficiency and look to make one change at a time.
Want to make MY head explode? Send me (along with dozens of other people) an email that includes, as an attachment, your 54-page slide deck, your tabbed and richly formatted newsletter, your million-row spreadsheet, or several megabytes-worth of photos from your latest vacation. Honestly, it doesn't matter why you sent the attachment(s) to me in email: for review and comments, or for awareness. I can pretty much guarantee that you have several very good file repository options available to you, any one of which, ANY of them, would be more effective and efficient that passing that file around in email.
What's a better way to share files then? A link to where you've posted THE file is infinitely preferable. Nearly all available file repositories support some type of direct linking. Why not host the file in a single location and share that location out? Not only will this reduce our inbox sizes and keep us out of mail-jail, but it also means you only have to update one location when changes occur, rather than sending out another round of messages with yet another attachment.
So, a good place to start? Start sharing YOUR files more smartly, and set an example for others, Gently guide others to bettter collaboration methods, and file storage methods.
I'm happy to report that I receive very few files in email anymore. I'd love to hear YOUR experience.
Yup, we're still "working outside the inbox" here.
Along with Luis Suarez Kelly Smith and I continue driving and evangelizing the idea in hopes it will take hold and help create a new business culture of open, transparent, and collaborative work. To that end, I recently built a presentation now hosted on Slideshare to help illustrate our efforts as we documented them here in our Notes from Rational Support "WOTI" blog series. We've tried to distill the core concepts, ideals, and recommendations down to their essence and provide an easy to consume presentation. I hope you not only enjoy the presentation deck, but also find it helpful in your own quest to reduce email and increase your effectiveness.