Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Email discussions

.. they just don’t work

We have all been there. Probably multiple times as well. The endless sinkhole of discussions running on email. Someone send you an email or replies to an email you send or you are just one of the innocent bystanders that are in the CC-list. That email then triggers yet another reply from someone, for some trivial reason maybe. But then the avalanche starts. Avalanches usually start with just one small ball of snow. The effects of an avalanche can be disastrous and so are the effects of an email avalanche
Do not play with dynamite in the mountains
It is really easy to react to some incorrect or plain stupid email. Or something that just annoys the heck out of you. A manager happily announcing to a customer that we will be shipping next week and joyfully CC-ed you along in the mail.
Enough to make your head explode and maybe even go ALL CAPS on him.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap. It is so easy to try and start a discussion via email by simply pressing reply and start typing. Often without really letting your brains kick in. With a healthy strong cup loaded with cafeine you can really get the words and long sentences flowing. After banging prose for several minutes you sit back and admire your work and know for 100% sure that this will solve all misunderstandings and will re-eductaed all those on the list of addressees.
But in reality you hold a match very close to the fuse of a stick of dynamite.
When you hit send you light the fuse.
You return to work and after some time you check your inbox and disaster has struck. An avalanche of replies to your solve-it-all reply. People have written long epistels back explaining things again and how everything was agreed upon and what was not agreed upon and that they weren’t there when it was agreed and that the situation has changed and soon some will GO ALL CAPS ON EVERYONE INCLUDING YOU. YES YOU!
You see that more and more people have gotten involved and that more people are receiving the mail and oh yes just like an avalanche it has gone rapidly downhill.
Maybe someone is accusing you or anyone else already of being a Nazi.
Stop right there
Yes, it is already too late. So stop replying. It is simply impossible to get switch on sanity again in this situation. Stop it.
The only solution right now is get face to face with the people really involved in the matter. Which you should have done right from the beginning.
Single out the most relevant people in the matter and send a meeting request. Get face to face or if itis just one or two people get on the phone or Skype or Hangouts or whatever you prefer. Quit the email avalanche which is making things worse with each reply.
Better stil..
Better is to prevent the entire escalation. Whenever you find yourself writing a big email reply and you feel your heart beating stronger than normal and you drink your coffee faster than normal, please do not hit that send button.
Cut and paste the text you have written in a document and turn the email in a simple meeting request. You can use the document as your notes for the meeting.
The words “Let’s meet and discuss” are so much more powerful than any piece of well written prose no matter how long.