Death by e-mail
I just watched the demise of an organization's leader after trying to pass a controversial reform via e-mail. This is the third time I've seen this happen.
While e-mail is a wonderful thing, it's not designed as a discussion tool for the following reasons:
- E-mail is one-way communication, not discussion.
- Written words and tone often get misinterpreted - 90% of communication is non-verbal
- Messages often cross in cyberspace, so you're commenting on proposal 1 while others are commenting on proposal 3.
- It's much easier to be negative when talking to a computer screen
- People don't read every word of an e-mail message (or at least I don't)
- Many important decision makers tune out when the flow of e-mails get too great.
My guidelines for e-mail are:
1) It's Ok to use to send out a proposal via e-mail
2) It's OK to accept comments (but don't assume that everyone read it)
3) Only respond to the comments by saying "thanks for your comments."
4) Compile the comments and have a face-to-face or conference call to discuss the controversial points.