PM: Email Management – Part 2

Now that we’re efficiently handling email we receive (via The 3-Step Email Handling Process), we’ll now cover the 2 remaining email management topics.

The Email Traffic Cop

How many times have we observed, what I like to call, an email debate / massacre of a subject? That is, someone puts out a well-intentioned email sharing information and/or asking a question, and one or more of the recipients responds with their own opinion(s) and question(s). While this is unfolding, others join in, responding to the original author or one of the recipient’s responses to the author, and so on. It can literally get dizzying!

Left unchecked, the topic being thrashed about will become increasingly confusing, leading to miscommunications, bad decisions, people getting upset and/or feelings being hurt. Not to mention the complete waste of time and energy!

When I observe this, relative to a project I’m leading, I’ll step in and suggest that the interested parties get together to sort things out vs. continuing via email. This includes asking that they let the rest of us on the email chain know the outcome of the discussion. Depending on the nature and urgency of the topic I may setup and facilitate the meeting myself to ensure we get the related conversation on track towards closure, as quickly as possible.

Writing Effective Emails

Now that we’re effectively handling the emails we receive, it is time to discuss how we can ensure our own emails hit the mark and aren’t time wasters. To do so, consider the following pointers…

  • Be diligent with regards to the list of recipients by only including those who truly “need to know”
  • Make the subject short and sweet, clearly indicating the topic
  • Provide an introduction including who we are and why we’re emailing
  • Write a clear message with complete sentences and paragraph breaks
  • Use the spell checker and don’t use bold / caps (that’s shouting)
  • At the end, reinforce key points and/or summarize the ask: the request, question, deliverable and expected timing for follow-up, or indicating this was sent as an FYI.
  • When we are hot about something, it is helpful to write the message, save it, walk away, come back and review/revise it, potentially a few times, prior to sending. If we are particularly hot about something, it can make a world of difference if we sleep on it and pick it up fresh in the morning. By doing so, we can avoid the sharing of harsh words, miscommunications and the ensuing misunderstandings that occur when we dash off an email in the heat of the moment.
  • Above all, our email messages must stand on their own. That is, they must share complete context of the subject being communicated and/or the question or request being asked. By doing so, when (not if) our email is forwarded (e.g., someone is sharing information or delegating an action), others who receive it will have the necessary context to at least begin considering their handling of the message.

In closing, email can be a highly effective communications tool, when used well. When used inappropriately, it can result in the waste of a great deal of time and energy. We can avoid this and facilitate highly effective communications by following the email management guidelines provided.

If you are looking to improve PM competencies in yourself, or organization, feel free to reach out so we can discuss how I might help you.

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