Communicating More Effectively with Lean Emails
Although there is no denying the impact of Lean in manufacturing, the far reaching effects of Lean in office transactions and support functions cannot be overstated.
Let’s look at how Lean concepts can be applied to improve communication - specifically email communication.
Many of us can attest that emails are indispensable to managing operations and communicating within and without the organisation. But what about the tedious ritual of :
- Reading and deleting emails that do not concern us
- Scrolling through endless pages of text to make sense of a situation
- Wondering why we were included in the circulation loop
- Being bombarded with too much, or too little information
- Downloading irrelevant but large attachment files
- Waiting for data, responses and decisions that seem to take their time in coming
The issues highlighted above, are unfortunately common, far from exhaustive, and are the outcome of bad email practices that lead to over-processing, error, waiting, inventory and communication wastes that in turn, result in long lead-times and higher operational costs.
So how do we Lean up email communications? Here are some tips that can help speed up communication flow and decision making at the office.
Be crystal clear in your message in as few words as possible. Put it in the subject, bold it, bullet-point it, underline it – do whatever it takes to get the message through fast. No one has time to meander through paragraphs of text. Exclude the irrelevant When forwarding emails, exclude irrelevant information and attachments. Do not just cc anyone in your contact list – decide who really needs to be in the circulation loop.
- Determine the correct recipeints
It is tempting to “Reply all” and start the email with “ Hi Everyone”. If you are looking for a direct respond, address the email to specific individuals.
The subject should reflect the content of the email. Update the subject line if the content has somewhat changed along the way. And don’t forget to delete any obsolete content.
Let the sender know if you need time to decide, obtain information or provide updates if a quick respond is not possible. Don’t keep the sender waiting. And do remember to provide an answer if there is a question from the sender!
If you and your colleagues are retaining multiple copies of the same emails in the server, be prepared to run out of storage space and experience reduced processing speed. Establish an official location to save important emails and attachments or store them off-line. Then delete those taking up storage space in the server. And while you are at it, remember to delete the spam mails, obsolete emails and jokes.
Read your email 3 times before you press “Send”. Check if your message is accurate and clear, if the words used are appropriate, and if your respond is complete. Extra care should be taken when sending emails to recipients outside the organisation; check that the name of the recipient, his title, his organization and email address are correctly spelt. Confirm that the correct files have been attached.
So the next time you login to your email account, put some of the above tips into practice and Lean up the email communication in your workplace!