Act One, Scene One. 8am Monday 8th November, in the office.
Drone 1 “Man I get waaaay too many emails. 400 a day. I’ll never be able to read them all, let alone reply.”
Drone 2 “I never bother to read the 500 a day I get, I’m just too busy.”
Drone 1 “Did I say 400, I meant 600, easily 600.”
Drone 2 “Wow, we’re important eh? 700 emails every day…”
Act One, Scene Two. Lunchtime Monday 8th November, in the office.
Drone 1 “Want to go for lunch with me?”
Drone 2 “Can’t. Too many emails to read”
Drone 1 “I thought you said you didn’t read all those emails?”
Drone 2 “errrm…”
Drone 1 “Anyway, I didn’t mean let’s go for lunch as such, I meant just….oh forget it I’m eating my sandwich at my desk. Too busy”
Drone 2 “emails?”
Drone 1 “emails!”
And so it went on and the company gradually ground itself into a meaningless dust. Empty, bored people writing and ignoring empty, boring emails. It died. And it deserved no better.
How depressing. And sadly this kind of drudge spiral goes on all too often in too many places. Was it always like this? Does it have to be like this? I don’t think so.
Let’s take a look at the word “company”. It is derived from the Latin language, and it means to break bread with. That sounds suspiciously like having lunch together to me. And the trouble with lunch is it leads to conversations. And conversations can lead to better understanding which in turn can lead to not having to send so many damn emails!
Lunch is not the only way to turn back the tide. Sarah Matthews sent me this interesting article about a guy working for IBM who uses social software to reduce the inbox inflow. Gareth Jones is someone closer to home who is also making great strides to get stuff done in the immediacy of the real and online social world. And of course anyone who attended the ConnectingHR unconference will have seen the power of conversation first hand. In fact, we had a conversation about email getting in the way of conversation that very day. I scribbled a few things down:
American Express – apparently they study their high performing managers to try and find what makes them high performing. Guess what, this group all were noted for having conversations with people and with their teams!
It was suggested that flexible and hot desk working get in the way of conversation. Personally I think that flexible and hot desk working opens up opportunities for new conversations with new people. Maybe I’m just the scary guy your Mum and Dad warned you about but it works for me.
It was generally accepted that email overload is rife. “Ignore the lot, if it’s that important someone will call”, came the anarchic suggestion. Might work?
If you use things like Twitter, then what has passed has passed. Gareth made that observation and it struck a chord with me. Email is often about arse covering. The long ago sent proof that you did or did not say x or y. The immediacy of social media could be used to rebuild trust. Trust eh, that could be useful?
However you choose to create dialogue, it’s important to encourage. You can’t force people to talk. And folks do need to eat so it seems to me that lunchtime is potentially good company time. So if you work with people (yes, I’m talking to you), why not start lunching and conversing and create a people movement? Take the visible lead on this and be responsible for co-creating something great.
What do you think? Is lunch just for wimps or is it an opportunity to talk and share and learn and understand? And what other ways can you suggest to get the inbox levels down and the conversation levels up?
Photo c/o v1ctory_1s_m1ne