Project Management

Re: Email Maladies

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Email is a necessity of the modern office, but it can be detrimental to effective project communication if not managed properly, hindering teamwork and performance. Here we examine common email-related problems, including lack of context and distraction.

I am working on a very large program in a highly structured environment that has resulted in layers of management, administration and communications, all of which cascade through the project via email one layer at a time — VPs send to directors, directors to managers, managers to supervisors, and so on. Several managers simply hit ‘forward’ on every email, with no editing, filtering or added value. This approach is OK for formal announcements, but it isn’t appropriate for regular team communications, especially in an environment where most of the team is co-located. And it creates a number of issues for team members.

Lack of context blocks communication

The first problem is the absence of any context for all these emails. By simply forwarding the email to the team with nothing more than a “FYI”, the managers are forcing their team members to put the information contained in the email into the right context. As messages cascade down an organizational (or project) structure, the need for relevant context becomes more important because there is less awareness of what is happening …

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