Posts Tagged email

Two weeks into killing off e-mail…

Posted by on Friday, 10 February, 2012

… and here’s what my numbers show thus far:

Week 1 Week 2
Outbox / sent: 2 8
Total Incoming: 116 228
Total opportunities: 41 64

Yup, I received nearly twice as much email in week 2 as I did in week 1. And I sent four times more email. That’s actually not a failure to me though. It is expected that in the beginning of trying to reduce your inbox, your outbox may suffer a tad as I am ignoring step 2 (Stop Replying!) in favour of replying with guidance to better alternatives. Mind you I haven’t had much opportunity (contrary to the ‘opportunities’ line above ) to reply like that, but one of my colleagues has, and it seems to be catching on as others are starting to see the value with communicating in forums and wikis to solve problems across teams.

For me, however, this week saw a huge win:
I have been working off-hours (after “work” but before Jean gets home, that no-man’s land of time when I am normally sitting at my desk and working anyways) on a small javascript tool to generate URLs based on user entered variables. Thanks to one of my colleagues who did all the heavy informational lifting over the past nine months, I was able to dig in and get this javascript tool working initially just based on the fact that he had shared this information on a wiki already, allowing me to work when he wasn’t necessarily available… and here is where the really big win was seen for me (aside from the tool itself which will be a huge benefit for me directly):

I was able to collaborate, test, validate content and sanity check with five other colleagues, then roll out the tool to an internal webserver all without sending a single email. Zip. Zero. Nada. No email was harmed in the creation of this tool!

Think about that for a moment. Over the course of two weeks, we went from concept to delivery of an internally deployed tool without sending any email. This includes all the testing cycles where bugs were found, corrected, retested, and other changes were updated and re-deployed to a test server. How did we do it? Easy. We used two wiki pages, our SameTime instant messenger service, and a total of 3 phone calls (one of which was to show another colleague what it does before we roll it out to a larger audience).

This little side project just inadvertently proved to me that projects CAN be run from start to finish with a minimal amount of e-mail exchanges. I say minimal here as this was a small scale proof of concept, and presumably larger more complex projects may require an e-mail or two… but I’ve shown that our alternative tools do a much better job of getting the job done, and therein lies the huge win.

We moved “working outside the inbox” from concept to reality for this project… and that excites me even more than being able to create a useful tool for me and some of my colleagues within IBM (which is itself rather exciting)!

Email is dead to me

Posted by on Wednesday, 1 February, 2012

 Today my colleague, cohort, and WonderTwin(tm) Kelly Smith posted an announcement on our work blog launching our mission to reclaim our lives and work back from the in-box of dooooom. She and I, along with at least two other colleagues are tackling these beasts we call our in-boxes.

Ok, so maybe we’re not being quite as provocative as it sounds, but we ARE jumping on board to what we see as some rather revolutionary thinking: starting today we are working outside of the inbox. (#WOTI is the tag and acronym for “Working Outside The Inbox” and one you’ll likely be seeing a lot of in the next year…)

We adopted the idea from our hero, Luis Suarez, and decided to follow in his footsteps this year. Still sounding too provocative for you? It really isn’t… everyone can play along, it’s THAT easy.

Don’t get me wrong, email is indeed a great tool for 1-1 discussion in a transactional format; that is, someone gives information or asks a question, and in return another person gives or asks as well. Email is decidedly not the best tool for many things that we use it for today: discussions, decision-making, file sharing, file repositories, knowledge sharing, newsletters, and announcements.

As Kelly notes in out work blog: “We have the collaborative technology. We have the skillz”. And she’s right. Over the past few years she and I have adopted a much more collaborative focus to our work, using the various tools at our disposal to ensure we can accomplish tasks with as much efficiency and effectiveness as possible and have both been preaching the word of transparent collaboration for quite a while now.

The difference now is that we’re more focused, more structured, and will be tracking our progress. I KNOW my incoming email had reduced significantly over the past year, but this year we are going to be able to quantify it and show solid results… starting today.

How, I can hear you ask, do we intend to accomplish such a hefty goal? Easy I say: we’ve absconded with Luis’ Magic 3 step program, and added a fourth step of our own:

  1.  Stop replying to email. The more email you reply to, the more email you will receive. It is a never-ending cycle. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I won’t reply to ANYTHING that comes into my inbox, but rather that I will be much more focused and judicious as I implement step 2 before I reply:
  2. Use the right tool for the right conversation. This means identifying conversations/tasks (use cases) that can be accomplished more easily, more transparently, more efficiently, and with less cost, using a more appropriate social tool. Sometimes that will be email. Most of the time, it won’t.
  3. Start moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home. This won’t be a light switch situation, rather it will happen slowly and surely.
  4. Record progress, set an example, evangelize and act as a change agent. This is the one we added on… because without monitoring progress, it is very difficult to show tangible value. Additionally, without evangelizing and acting as change agents, we’re just doing this in a silo with no further effect, which isn’t our intent at all…

So what IS our intent if it isn’t to just reduce the amount of email cluttering our respective in-boxes? Again, another easy answer: we intend to act as examples and agents of change to help show our organizations how much more efficient and effective we can ALL be by using the *right* collaborative tools.

We intend to do this mindfully and conscientiously; to drive change for the benefit of us all, not just the individuals jumping on this project… given Luis’ data over the 4 years he’s been doing this, he’s proven the value and effectiveness of such an undertaking.

Want to join us? Its easy! Just start following the four steps above!
We’ll be posting periodic updates over on our “Notes from Rational Support” blog so you can see our progress. Feel free to comment there with your own progress as well and before long you’ll start seeing marked improvement. In fact I’ve heard told that your hair will be more luxurious, you’ll become more attractive, you’ll be promoted to executive status, and money will fall out of the sky for you…

Okay, that last sentence may not be entirely (at all) true, but I can assure you, reducing the amount of email coming to your inbox will make you a much happier person.