Fragmentation is a real and growing problem in today’s society. We know that to produce anything of quality, we must focus and maintain that focus for a period of time. Today’s society, however, is moving in the opposite direction at warp speed. Phones on our desks, phones in our pockets, non-stop email, and the temptations of social media updates break our focus no matter where we are.
We ignore the important matter at hand and turn our attention to the interruption because there is a slight chance that it might be important, or at least that it might be interesting.
Is email the primary way in which information is disseminated in your organization?
For the sender, email provides a quick way to get the message from the brain to the Inbox of the recipient. Responsibility shifts with a click of the mouse on the “send” button. To that extent, email works great. To fully understand the problem, we must look at it from the viewpoint of the recipient, especially if we are responsible for communicating to the same group of people on a regular basis.
To the recipient, our communication comes in fragments spread across time. Whether or not what we send in our emails is actually acted upon the way we intended is largely dependent upon the maturity of the organizational system of the recipient.
You may need to read that sentence another time or two to let it sink in.
The recipient may or may not make a thoughtful decision about what the message of the e-mail means to him/her, what needs to be done about it, and enter the “what needs to be done” part in the signature tool right then and there. If the personal organizational system lacks maturity, those e-mail messages will simply sit in a jumbled mess, and massive amounts of details will slip through the cracks.
There is a better way. It is a solution that will help the disorganized person. It is also a solution that will comes as a favor to the organized person.
What if those in our organization received a once-per-week concise communication that contained everything they needed to know? What if all we asked of others was to check a blog once a week and to set aside a few minutes one time a week to look at what had been carefully constructed, and record in the signature tool what needed to be done about each item? Would that represent a time-saver? You bet.
As a first-year principal, the best thing I did was institute the “Friday Memo,” that one-page well-thought-out document that gave teachers everything they needed to know for the next week. Announcements, instructional tips, calendar events, birthdays, inspiration, commendation…it was all there.
When email became available in our school system, we were the first school to use it, and we used it well. Email, however, did not replace the Friday Memo. We used email for things that email was good at doing, and we used the Friday Memo for “batching” communication, giving teachers more time to teach.
The Friday Memo was eventually replaced, and it was replaced with a blog. The idea was simple…one post a week containing everything the faculty needed to know. But now, we could include links to other sites teachers needed to visit. Now, we could post pictures. Now, all of the communication from previous weeks was automatically stored for future reference.
Using one blog post to replace a dozen blanket e-mail messages takes some organization on the part of the sender. That is the subject for the next post.
Tomorrow, count how many emails come your way. How many different topics do they address? How many are poorly organized, and they seem to be sent simply to get them of the mind of the sender? How many times are you doing the same thing?