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19 Nov

A method for avoiding a certain kind of duplication of work

Datum: 2014-11-19 09:58
A falcon is in mid-flight with its wings fully spread against a sandy backdrop.

Yes­ter­day one of my clients made me aware of a small detail con­cern­ing e‑mails which can help us avoid spend­ing time doing unnec­es­sary dupli­ca­tion of effort and work. I think that it in its sim­plic­i­ty was a sharp obser­va­tion. Allow me to share it with you.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

No more dou­ble trouble

The sce­nario is as fol­lows: You are in a crit­i­cal stage in the project you are involved in and you send an e‑mail to one of the project-par­tic­i­pants where you write some­thing along the lines of Hi! Some­thing has come up which we need to deal with imme­di­ate­ly…” and so on.

Since it is some­thing the oth­er par­tic­i­pants in the project need to be aware of as well you sent it to all four of them as cc:-recipients, mean­ing that they receive a copy of the message.

After a few days you receive a call from your con­tact at the client’s office. She tells you: You know, there have been sev­er­al peo­ple call­ing us about what hap­pened. Who at your office is actu­al­ly respon­si­ble for solv­ing the problem?”

It turns out that dur­ing the pro­cess­ing of the large amount of e‑mails your send and receive at your com­pa­ny on a dai­ly basis, some of the project-par­tic­i­pants had not acknowl­edged that they only had received a copy of the orig­i­nal do-something-about-this-immediately”-message. This result­ed in that not only had the intend­ed fix­er” of the prob­lem addressed the issue, but so had also two of the oth­er four cc:-recipients. Hence, three peo­ple had been work­ing to solve the same prob­lem simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with­out being aware of each other’s efforts.

Do this instead

When you are send­ing e‑mails where one or sev­er­al recip­i­ents are get­ting copies (cc:), be extra care­ful to spec­i­fy who you are address­ing by for instance refer­ring to this some­one by name, hence mak­ing it explic­it­ly clear who you are ask­ing to do some­thing. It could even be worth the trou­ble to list the cc:-recipients in the e‑mail itself and clar­i­fy what you are expect­ing them to do, even if that only includes being aware of the infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed in the e‑mail. This is use­ful since if there is some­thing we tend to notice in a body of text full of infor­ma­tion, it is our own name.

In order to avoid doing some­one else’s task, find a way to quick­ly and eas­i­ly dis­tin­guish what e‑mails you have received as a cc:-recipient. You could for instance cre­ate a rule that sends cc:-e-mails into a par­tic­u­lar des­ig­nat­ed fold­er or anoth­er rule which high­lights the sub­ject line in grey for these e‑mails (or some oth­er more pro­trud­ing color).

Clar­i­ty gives bet­ter results

If you are almost over­ly clear when spec­i­fy­ing who an e‑mail is intend­ed for as you send cc:-copies to oth­ers, you will have few­er mis­un­der­stand­ings. You will end up using your time more effi­cient­ly rather than spend it dou­bling, or even tripling, the exe­cu­tion of the same tasks. The result is less frus­tra­tion and you will act more as focused fal­cons rather than dis­ori­ent­ed chickens. 

What is your way?

How do you uti­lize the cc:-function as clear­ly and effi­cient­ly as pos­si­ble so that it actu­al­ly ful­fills its pur­pose? Please tell me!

(But, what to do when oth­ers don’t cc: as you pre­fer they did?)

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