We’ve all had to surmount project communication challenges at some point in our job functions. We are in a world of globally dispersed teams where we sometimes never get to see each other. Naturally, email communication is often deemed a convenient method to get messages across without having to work around team schedules. However, a badly written email can put a project into a downward spiral quickly because the messaging was ambiguous.
I’ve seen many well meaning project leaders struggle in three particular areas of email communication, and I’ve included my thoughts on how to avoid these pitfalls.
Do not inundate with email. If you bombard your team with myriad emails, it makes you look disorganized and also clogs up their inbox unnecessarily. Less is more. Consolidate your thoughts into fewer emails and they will get a lot more attention.
The rest is history? I’ve seen some people include the entire history of the project while writing up weekly status, including past action items that have been completed, past decisions, project plan changes over time, etc. Wrong (IMHO)!
Long lists covering all this history makes people gloss over the details. On a long-running project, this is a disaster waiting to happen. If you must include said history, and if the situation allows, include only what has changed between your last communication and this one. You can relegate really old items to the bottom of the email, or to some external location such as a WIKI page or document that you can refer to in your email.
Make your messaging to-the-point.
- Be sure to include a specific subject line, and in the body of the email include a short description of what you are trying to convey before you go into the gory details. This sets the stage and prepares the reader for the specifics of the email.
- Verbose paragraphs will either cause people to just save the email for reading later, or to skim the contents of the email and make incorrect assumptions. Use short bulleted lists and break them up into sections, making sure to point out action items and next steps.
What advice do you have to offer to avoid other email pitfalls such as these? I’d love to hear more on the topic.