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?)