More on Communications…Not More Communications

We have all been in the position where we have a great deal of information to disseminate to a significant number of people. What do we do? We write the “Mother of all Memos” – MoaM, (please pardon the allusion to a wayward military comment in the coining of a new communications phrase) and then put it to a distribution that rivals Santa’s Naughty / Nice list. We now have all the information communicated to all the people. Our job is done here, right? I don’t think so.

On the surface this may seem to be the best way for us to communicate, but it reality it isn’t. It may be efficient for the sender (one memo typed and sent) but is it efficient communications? 

Efficient communications is providing the appropriate information to the appropriate audience, at the right time. That means only the information that is needed then, not all the information you have. Does everyone on that massive distribution list need to know everything that is contained in the body of the MoaM? Better yet, will everyone on that distribution list even read the entire memo in an effort to glean the specific pieces of information that they need from it? We would all like to think that everything that we write (including this Blog article) is of such importance that everyone will read it in its entirety, print it out, high-light it, then annotate it and keep it close by where they can often refer to it.


Efficient communications would call for us to create several shorter memos, with significantly shorter distribution lists where the information in each memo is appropriate for the specific audience and does not contain information that is not needed by that audience. It may be a little more work on the sender’s part but it will more efficiently communicate the information…and it will probably also cut down on the enormous number of the dreaded one-line “reply all” message chains that invariably follow the use of the MoaM.

Effective communications is providing the right information in the right format for the appropriate audience. This means sending emails, right? In the past this has certainly been the case, but is really the most effective method?

As matrix organizations, teaming and collaboration have proliferated, specific communities of interest have been created. Communications capabilities have also been developed in this area. Where email is a One-to-Many, or a Many-to-Many form of communications, new capabilities such as SharePoint (my apologies to both my Mac and PC friends for using a Microsoft example) allows an accessible network location to be created where there is now a Many-to-One communications structure (many people accessing a single information location). This new(er) type of communications format might provide a more effective way to provide the right information to the right audience.

For me the only issue that arises with the creation of SharePoints for communication and information exchange is that it is not a “Push” form of communications. Email allows us the “Push” the information out to the desired recipients and participants. Once it is sent we are reasonbly sure that the desired recipients have it. SharePoint usually requires the desired participants to access the site and “Pull” the information down from it.

It’s a small difference, but in the hectic world in which we are all now working, it is just another activity that we must take the initiative on to accomplish. Emails come to us. They require an action. Even if you choose to do nothing, it was an active decision to do nothing based on the email. If we must go to a location to find out what we must / need to do, it might just be easier to not go, and as a result not have to make a decision regarding what does or doesn’t need to get done.

Now the decision to do / not do anything can be based upon whether or not we have decided to go get the information to act on, not what the information is itself may be.

It used to be just writing a big, long memo and sending it to everyone. Now we need to look at what is efficient (what information for which audience), and what is effective (what format “Push/Pull”, for which audience) will be the best to achieve the objectives.

On the other hand, it might not be such a bad idea to just pick up the phone and call……

Clock Your Time

I recently read “The Sales Messenger” by Mary Anne (Wihbey) Davis. I don’t normally read books like this and I am a bit out of the habit. I guess I will have to get back in the habit.

The Sales Messenger touched on a topic (one of many actually) that had aspects of both the concept of “the difference between activity and work” and “the choice of what to do and what not to do”. I found this very interesting in our current times where we are all asked to do more with less. The key here was choosing work that resulted in progress, and then performing it, instead of activities that kept us busy.

This is probably pretty simple, right? Surely everything that we are doing is associated with generating progress toward our professional objectives and goals. After all, we are all so busy at the office. The point was that we are all so busy, but when we really get down to examining what we are doing, I think that we will find out like those individuals profiled in “The Sales Messenger” that we are probably doing a lot of activities that don’t necessarily result in progress.

The idea that was proposed was that we should all create a tracking log of our time. We should note how many minutes (or hours) of each day or week are spent on which specific tasks we have been given, or chosen to do. Then we need to go through, or better yet, have someone help us go through the professional value that we derive from each task. This is the key. We have to be honest in the value assessmants.

If what we are doing is not directly helping us achieve our goals, or is not efficiently achieving that purpose, it is a candidate for an activity that should either be discontinued or changed. A prime example of this was provided in the form of “Networking”. We have all networked. We are all familiar with its concept. The example provided was in using networking to generate sales leads.

If you are spending time networking to generate sales leads, you need to quantify both the time you spend networking (time card) and the number of sales leads you have developed in each networking period, and assess if this is the most efficient use of your time. If it is, obviously you should keep at it. If it is not, you then need to decide to either stop doing that activity and free up the time to do something more productive, or change how you network.

Either way it comes down to clocking your time on the tasks you are performing, and then measuring the value that you get from each task.  I think we will all find that there are things that we are doing at our jobs that have little to no relationship to the work we need to accomplish. Sometimes it is hard for us to sort this out on our own.

I thought the simple idea of specifically clocking our time spent on each function, and then basically doing a micro – cost / benefit analysis on how that time was spent, was one of the best and most effective ways I have seen to help identify how we can devote more time to making progress and reduce our time spent on activities that are clogging up our already too busy days.