Before you shoot

Right now, one of the biggest waste buckets in large organizations are small  daily interruptions. In this post, we want to tell companies – like yours – how they should organize in a way that your team is interrupted as little as possible in their daily work.

Distractions in the shape of emails while you are working at the computer or small repetitive interruptions during meetings can be a drag in the short run and lead to lack of focus and execution power in the long run. We have previously described the effects of context switching in our article Fewer Projects per Person. So, think before you shoot of your next email.

First of all it is polite to ask if it is an appropriate time to interrupt an other person who seems busy and occupied elsewhere. Also, try to acknowledge that the person is as important as your self. Think about how you would like to be approached when you are busy and occupied elsewhere. Start out your email by writing an appreciative statement, such as “hope you have the time to help me on this…” or “regret the inconvenience…”. People are much more likely to put in the extra effort if they feel appreciated and sense some humbleness in the senders approach.

Also, remember that the person might miss prioritizing critical emails because she spends time on the your email.

When sending emails to people from whom you expect an action, an agreed time limit within which you can expect a reply would make it possible to plan your own time and escalate within due time if needed. Therefore, each e-mail should be replied to within a specified time frame, and preferably within the same working day. At vimpl we have a 24 hour rule. If the email is complicated, we just send an email back saying that we have received it and that we will get back . We also add a time to align expectations. This will put the sender’s mind at rest and usually they will be very patient. Ofcourse meeting the announced deadline is also critical to the way you are perceived as a business partner.

Some mails have travelled far, and the actual action needed could be several pages down in a thread. So, if you take the time to summarize the request when you forward it and enrich it with your valid input, the receiver saves time and the probability of a misunderstanding goes down significantly.

Below are our collections of good deeds that can be applied when working in an email driven culture.

E-mail – code of conduct

Senders..

  • always ask if it is OK to disturb
  • acknowledge that peoples time are valuable
  • uses a meaningful subject
  • only add people in the ‘To’ field if they are expected to comment back or act directly on the email.
  • uses the ‘Cc’ field when an action is not needed
  • uses the ‘Bcc’ field if you send the email to a large group of people to avoid disclosure of all recipient’s emails
  • makes sure to include all relevant details or information necessary to understand your request or point of view
  • don’t attach unnecessary files
  • uses words rather than formatting or capital letters to emphasize messages
  • don’t use abbreviations unless you are sure that the receiver understands them

Receivers…

  • (in the ‘To’ field) reply within 24 hours if requested even if they are not able to solve the problem
  • ask for clarification early on if in doubt
  • answer all questions raised and envision what the senders next question will be
  • carefully considers the use of ‘Reply all’
  • are potentially new senders (if you forward or reply to an email, adhere to the sender bullets)

Good luck with your next email…

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