'The 5 Email Rule' gets my colleagues talking - Technical.ly Philly

Business

Oct. 25, 2018 10:40 am

‘The 5 Email Rule’ gets my colleagues talking

A management hack from Free People’s Meredith Bonner: “Eliminate the ping-pong of online communication and just talk.”

Ditch the computer and go figure it out in-person.

(Photo by Flickr user WOCinTech Chat, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is a guest post by Meredith Bonner, a senior divisional merchandise planner at Free People.
To say you should get rid of emails in the workplace is like saying should be a no coffee policy. Work would grind to a halt.

We’d have to find time for (even more) meetings and be in the same place at the same time. We’d hand out bullet-pointed memos, call on people when they’re in the middle of something, we’d have to act out memes. It would be a sad step backwards.

And yet I am trying to cut my team off. Not completely. But setting a limit.

You see, I came back to my desk a while ago and in my inbox once again found a slew of emails between two of my reports who sit a paperclip’s throw away from each other. In the chain they were becoming less and less communicative, less and less action was being clarified and the end of another day was looming without them moving on with a time-sensitive task. And all I could think was “No. More. Emails.”

Lately I have started to see emails treated more like text messages: they go on and on with chatter and piecemeal replies and then… another email. We’ve all seen the email chains that fairly simple requests lead to many replies, an illusion of resolution on the screen only to find there’s no clear idea of responsibility and no completion. But because emails were being sent, everyone thought the task was moving forward.

I know there’s a need for email chains; they can allow people to spell things out clearly, to share with others who should be incorporated ad hoc, to track needs and actions. As a manager, I like that emails can show me people’s successes or where they need help, without me being directly involved in everything. Also, memes.

But sometimes you need to make an honest assessment: If emails are turning into people typing into a vacuum, then you need to upgrade to face-to-face.

So I’ve implemented a “5 Email Rule” with my team. If more than five emails are sent to resolve something, they have to stand up, go to the other in-person and talk about it. Phone calls are OK but face-to-face is the ideal.

I need my team to act efficiently, but also get to know each other, support each other and, as a side effect, gain better professional peripheral vision to anticipate how future projects can improve. When timeliness is key, eliminate the ping-pong of online communication and just talk. After all, if you were just making a decision about where to eat lunch would you allow more than five emails to resolve that?

The easiest outcome I’ve seen from this, as you’d imagine, is speed to action, with the added advantages of asking the right questions and getting the answers they need. I’ve also clarified that extended emails still hold value for them to be able to track progress and timing. But for the day-to-day the goal has remained — five emails and move on.

Advertisement

Organizations: Free People
-30-
JOIN THE COMMUNITY, BECOME A MEMBER
Already a member? Sign in here

Advertisement

IoT: ‘The machines are talking to each other in different ways’ than they used to

5 reasons to get your employees volunteering — and 3 ways to get started

The future of work is collaborative. Here’s how to better co-create

SPONSORED

Philly

Pitch to speak at Comcast Labs Connect’s data security conference

Philadelphia, PA

Linode

QA Automation Engineer

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

Linode

Senior Software Engineer – Kubernetes

Apply Now

5 tech innovations from CES 2019 that are easing the caregiver crisis

Why is this startup founder tripling down on Philly? He ran the numbers

8 email management tips from Philly tech leaders

SPONSORED

Philly

How teamwork is setting the standard for data standardization at Pinnacle 21

Chesterbrook, PA

Deacom

EDI Specialist

Apply Now
Chesterbrook, PA

Deacom

Software Developer Internship – Summer 2019

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Philadelphia

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!