Working Outside the Inbox, Step 3: Move conversations to the right home!

image  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