Many people will proudly say they receive 200+ e-mails a day and have back to back meetings as a sign of power and importance, even though they use a negative tone to demonstrate how much they dislike it.
But think about it. My research showed it takes an average of 2 minutes to prepare a reply to an e-mail, ranging from the ones you just delete to those it takes 20 minutes of careful reviews to tell the truth without hurting anyone’s feelings. This means for 200 e-mails one will spend almost 7 hours a day replying to them. Adding on top back to back meetings, and now this means 17 hours of work every day — as long as you consider replying to e-mails and attending meetings your work! This says that those people are the ones we often see working their e-mails during meetings they should be paying attention to. Or those who commonly say: “can you repeat the question, I was on mute” as if the mute button makes them deaf.
In the beginning this made me feel bad since (1) I no longer receive 200+ e-mails a day, and (2) I have some time during working hours to think, explore and create.
It’s interesting that people who use those traditional “I’m-a-really-busy-person” phrases say them as if it is completely out of their control. We created such a culture around e-mail and people feel so comfortable with that, that most novel collaboration capabilities are having a hard time to infiltrate the corporate universe.
During the latest Enterprise 2.0 Conference someone mentioned an example about professionals who still request their Admins to print their e-mail! Those didn’t even make the transition from the regular mail yet — which may be a good thing, for they can skip some of the evolutionary steps. And that’s the world we live in. Changes are happening so fast people are having a hard time to keep up.
The availability of more advanced technologies will do nothing if people don’t see value and don’t use them
The breakthrough change forces will have to come from different directions to enable such a leap in the corporate world. Identifying the right sponsorship at the top to convey the message that there is a minimum technology skillset required to work in the company, e.g. no dictating e-mails to the Admin allowed. If you work in a company where Sr. Management is skeptical about new collaboration technologies, don’t even try to implement them before you change that, otherwise you will fail!
Likewise, there must be a strong emphasis on simplification and business value. It is fine to assume an effort from professionals to stay current with technology is required, whether it is self-propelled or a top down “recommendation”. However, we still have to remember we are in the middle of a world revolution where we will have to deal with many different maturity levels. Simple will have many different definitions depending on the generation you ask for, and it is wise to get to a level of simplicity that is reasonable to help professionals who want to make the leap. If a definition of simple to someone means no change at all, then you may have a different problem.
It’s realistic to expect you will have to present business value to what you want to do. And the good news is that there is major business value. Nobody can argue we are capable to get more done today given the technological advances like e-mail, internet, etc. I’m sure many people challenged the implementation of e-mail in its infancy. But the availability of more advanced technologies will do nothing if people don’t see value and don’t use them. Changing a culture is difficult. Implementing new capabilities every month doesn’t help. The role of a technology professional is increasingly requiring that ability to lead proper change. Making sure you have that skill in your IT organization will be as important as their ability to translate technology into business value.
I was able to overcome the fact I don’t receive 200+ e-mails and have some time to think, explore and innovate in my calendar. Unfortunately, the number of meetings you have or e-mails you receive is still a measure of how busy and relevant you are, which perpetuates the culture. I'm not Nostradamus, but I can guarantee there is a better life after the inbox!
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