cc or die

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —December 3, 2004
Filed in Anecdotes, Culture

I heard the following anecdote the other day:

‘When I arrived I was told I should put every in writing as an email. This didn’t make sense to me and was contrary to how I normally worked, so I kept relying on conversations to get things done–at least until I was burnt the first time. Now I put everything in an email.’

This illustrates the power of email in embedding culture. In this case, it creates a culture of blame and mistrust. Contrast this approach with that of the New York diamond traders who conduct a majority of their business without contracts–business is done on a hand-shake. Think of the improvements in efficiencies and responsiveness!
I remember Dave Snowden describing email as an ‘addiction’, and suggesting that organisations should develop a ‘detox’ program–perhaps even disable the email platform for a while as ‘cold turkey’ therapy!
Everyone has his or her own way of dealing with email, and you will no doubt have your own. But here are a couple of approaches (perhaps you could call them ‘policies’) that people have adopted in an attempt to affect the culture of their companies positively.

  • send an email only if the information is going to a group;
  • avoid sending email to someone who is on the same floor–walk over and talk instead;
  • routinely delete emails when you have been cc’ed;
  • never use ‘bcc’ when all of the recipients of the email are colleagues;
  • set up an online collaboration place and conduct discussions there–rather than sending email back and forth.

Do you have other examples of how email can be used to foster trust?
Love to hear them.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

2 Responses to “cc or die”

  1. Matt Moore Says:

  2. Dave Says:

    The worst thing for me are the people that ask “How are you?” in the hallways. What they are really asking for is project status. So you can imagine that the project can be going south and my day can still be going fine.
    I’d rather status in email. If you ask for status, you are still in a culture of blame and mistrust.
    My last project manager learned that I was totally committed and was never going to miss a deadline. So he stopped asking for status.
    Get commitment, not status. Don’t ask for status in the hallway.

Send this to a friend