Why Email May Not be the Best System to Manage Communication Within Your Company

You’ve heard the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, we ask the same question but for business “If someone raises an issue in an email and no one replies to it, does it impact the company?”

Communication is vital to an organization. Orders need to go out and customers need to be attended to, all of which needs to be handled by an effective communication system. Unless there’s a system designed for such communications, most companies rely on email to handle day-to-day issues. And while it’s easy to fire off an email to a large group of people, getting people to engage is difficult. Conversations get drowned out and forgotten. Over the years that we have worked with helping companies manage information, we’ve noticed the effects of relying too heavily on email. See if you notice any of the following symptoms in your company:

Email overload and proliferation
Email makes it very easy to include everyone in the conversation, but often that’s not needed. For example, one employee sends an email to ten employees regarding a discrepancy on a customer order. This one email can quickly spiral out of control, even if only a few out of the group respond. As more people respond “reply-all”, employee’s inboxes fill up exponentially. The result is decreased productivity and frustration on the part of everyone involved.

Holding others accountable
Assigning tasks to people in an email chain makes it difficult to hold others accountable. For example, let’s say you have an intermittent problem in Production. After much discussion the group concludes that a simple check before every production run will prevent the issue. The team decides that Tim in Production will create a checklist document for the nightly inspection of machines. However, the day’s work continues and everybody including Tim forgets about the checklist. About a month goes by and nothing has changed, and the problem happens again because the check never made it to the actual production process. Another version of the same set of emails starts up and another round of discussion ensues. We really can’t blame Tim because he’s a busy guy and just didn’t have a pressing reason and reminder to get it done.

Knowledge in a blackhole
When teams resolve issues in an email chain, valuable learning and knowledge can be lost because there may not be a clean way to get the final answers into the email thread and the analysis it contained. Those involved know what to do, but what happens if the same issue arises in another department three months from now? That team is now left trying to figure out what to do, instead of being able to follow the same protocol the first team followed three months ago. Another problem of email is that issues often require or could be resolved quicker from input of others outside of the email chain. If a conversation is in a silo, time may be wasted or issues may be swept under the rug.

Conversations out of turn
Email makes it difficult for those who may not have access to their email at all times to understand what’s going on and respond accordingly. Email threads with many respondents can have answers to questions come out of turn, leaving those who haven’t checked their inbox left to fit the pieces of conversation back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Also, answers may be attributed to the wrong question, which creates the potential for misunderstanding. Again, productivity falters and frustration grows.

If you feel like your organization suffers with these same symptoms, there is hope yet. There are communications solutions that you can implement easily and inexpensively to address each of these issues. By aggregating communications onto a system that effectively shows the status and conversation of an issue, team members can quickly find a resolution and hold each other accountable. To learn more, give us a call to set you up on the right path towards effective communication.