Working outside the inbox- Stubbed my toe on a metrics table

Coming in to week ten and I’m still going strong, though not for the lack of some stumbling blocks along the way. Change is hard, after all, but none of my troubles were unexpected, nor that great of a hurdle. Really, all the “troubles” I’ve seen thus far revolve around my expectations and my own personal discouragement as I try to work outside of my inbox.

For me, this mild discouragement came in the form of some rather unremarkable metrics. I was hoping to see a great story come out after ten weeks of tracking both my inbox and outbox flows. Sadly, that story just isn’t presenting itself as I’d hoped. When first looking at them, I felt as though I’d stubbed my toe; a slight pain and a bit deflated, but nothing serious.  Take a look at my personal metrics for yourself (for clarity “bad” e-mail are all the types we’ve identified as potential opportunities to move those conversations to better tools, while “good e-mail reflects the automated notifications, meeting notices, and confidential communications appropriate for e-mail):


As I see it, even with nine weeks of solid data, no remarkable trend is evident. This is likely due to the fact that I’ve been working for the past few years to reduce my inbox clutter, and as such when we decided to begin tracking and formalize a more concerted effort, only slight shifts were/are evident (I’m honestly not sure why I was still secretly hoping for impressive trends to show up). In week 7 I saw a largish spike in some of the auto-notifications from one of our tools, which explains the bump in total and ‘good’ e-mails, though oddly enough I also saw a slight drop in my ‘bad’ e-mails as well, which was a good sign to me. Generally speaking the others also tracking their progress have seen similar trends.  All the while, however, I’ve been able to keep my outbox at a relative bare-minimum of sent messages; having opted for more work on wiki pages, instant messages, blog posts, and ensuring I cover questions during meetings making follow-up e-mails less likely and less necessary.

I’d love to see week nine’s downward trend continue for me, but I’m not holding for high hopes on that. Rather, I’ll rest on what I know is a true win for me, though I’m unable to document it: that my inbox has shifted from predominantly one-to-one and one-to-many messages, to simple tooling notifications over the past three years since we began more heavily utilizing collaboration communities. Had I been tracking my inbox back then, I’m sure that’s what the numbers would show me now.

Have no fear, intrepid reader, this doesn’t mean I’m beaten, broken, or giving up. No, I still see great value in driving the right conversations to the right channels, and will continue to use open and transparent communication methods to ensure our collective knowledge doesn’t find its demise through our inboxes, but rather flourishes when shared for future discovery. This whole idea really isn’t about killing email, instead it is just a provocative way to address a much-needed shift in culture to adopt collaboration tools more suited to the kind of work we do in this global economy. Effective and efficient collaboration is the name of the game these days, and email is a speed bump to the kind of knowledge sharing required for us all to be successful.
Feel like catching up with everything my colleagues and I been writing on our efforts to work outside the inbox? Check out our work blog, to which I have contributed a few posts… The following are all the posts to date surrounding our WOTI undertaking:

As always, if you’re playing along at home (or at work) I’d love to hear about your successes, difficulties, and everything in between!