Communication is the lifeblood of a business. Without it, there is confusion, misalignment, wasted effort, missed opportunities, poor performance, and failure. Email revolutionized communications. Email reduced the time to communicate AND increased information density at the same time. The ROI on those simultaneous improvements to communication was incomparable. Rapid adoption ensued and everyone became glued to their email.
As with most technologies, and the innovations that disrupt them, email reached (a long time ago) a mature state. We are now entering a post-email age. New forms of communication are emerging that push the boundaries to an even more efficient frontier.
Email suffers from some significant shortcomings that are no longer justified in the face of new solutions. There are now solutions, from Trello to Slack to Basecamp, that better optimize both variables of the ROI.
What does this mean for you?
Try to move all your communications off of email. That might sound crazy, but just try it. Especially if you are a PM.
Encourage face to face interactions when there is a need for synchronous information exchanges. Face to face will always will be the best form of communication. Use new tools when there is a need for asynchronous information exchanges.
We are currently experimenting with some new processes where email is not allowed. The early results are positive. Stakeholders are more active participants. They are providing better information, faster. They have more clarity of thought.
But, why is that?
My hypothesis is that email has become a crutch. Response time often comes at the expense of a thoughtful response. By changing the medium, it forces people to take a bit more time and organize their thoughts. The end result is that the communication is more information rich and actionable. The information is more dense, but the amount of time it took to communicate (using the new tools) is equal to that of email. Thus, the ROI is better on that new form of communication, when compared to email.
Plus, no longer being a slave to your inbox is amazing. At first, you are anxious because you don’t have a ton of email – but then you realize – that’s the point. You and your team will be more productive. Stakeholders are better equipped with the info they need. And you can finally start doing all that work that has piled up because you had been spending so much time responding to emails!
What do you think? Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.