Working Outside the Inbox: Think Friday- A WOTI recap

imageWith 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