Monday, January 12, 2009

Email merry-go-round

I feel pretty strongly about Emails as my previous posts on this topic indicate. Necessary as they are, they can be evil things if not used wisely.

And have you noticed how the longer an Email goes around, the more CCs it attracts ? Why is that ?
  • Is it because we don’t trust our co-workers so we feel the need the document everything and have witnesses in case the other party later on refuses to acknowledge something ?
  • Is it because we are not really interested in solving problems but in only generating activity ? (and activity is not equal to productivity)

But why does it matter. Surely there is no harm in keeping more people in the loop?

Well, yes and no. Yes it is essential to have some people in the loop for coordination, but at the same time if there are too many, there is something wrong. I can think of at least two problems:

  • Every time more people are added to an email, the chances of any real action reduce, since the ownership gets diluted. Somehow the act of copying a lot of people removes the moral obligation to actually solve a problem - someone will take care of it, right ? Of course, very often, no one does, because everyone feels the same way.
  • The more a mail is copied, the less likely it becomes that people will change their positions if proven wrong. They have now publicly stated something copied to the world and will not back off since it will make them look bad.

I wouldn't of course dream of working without Emails. Communication is the life blood of business. But like most things it can be deadly if used for the wrong reasons.

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