Communication – Don’t Use A Fire Hose

There is a term called drinking from the fire hose.  If you have ever felt like you were trying to do that in order to keep up with just your emails, let alone phone calls, news, and even blog posts, welcome to this blog post.

We live in a society today where disseminating your thoughts, ideas, reports, and anything else is extremely easy.  And it is extremely easy to open yourself up for those communications.  The problem is that then there is too much for any one person to process.  Just like drinking from a fire hose, you cannot take it all in and you are going to be a mess in the process.

Just using the work example; emails, texts, and phone calls are probably the three major communication tools that are used.  Let’s talk about emails.  Most people get far too many.  The import emails, the ones you really need to read and understand, are buried in your inbox with the non-pertinent emails.  And even the important emails are often not written concisely.  On top of that, most people’s jobs are not centered around reading e-mail.  For emails to be really effective two things have to happen.  That has the first is that emails need to be clear, concise, and to the point.  The second thing is that, as an organization, there needs to be education about appropriate use of e-mail.

In order to write a good e-mail that is going to be read and understood there are only a few rules that you need to follow.

  1. The subject describes what the e-mail is about.  Using forwards and replies without changing topics is a good way to have an e-mail go unread.
  2. Make sure that the list of people you send e-mail to it is appropriate.  Don’t include people who are not going to be interested and make sure you include all of the relevent people.
  3. The first two or three sentences in the body of the e-mail should contain a summary along with any conclusions.  If you are describing a meeting, any major decisions and news is good information to put at the beginning.  You can devote other paragraphs further down to details.

The second key about emails is that, as an organization, you need to educate your people about using email appropriately.

  1. Like any other kind of communication, it is OK for people to specify what they want and how they would like to receive it.  This leads to a conversation and ultimately to the compromise or a change in process so that both the sender and receiver of information are satisfied.
  2. It is important to educate people to consciously decide what emails if they want to receive.  Some are mandatory.  But beyond that, most people have options to receive emails from vendors, notifications about projects, are copied on emails from former work assignments, and many other sources.  It is important for them to recognize that they probably cannot read all of these and to pare their list down so that they are only getting emails that are important to them.
  3. There needs to be a conscious effort on the part of management to set a good example.  People learning the protocols will naturally look to you.
  4. Schedule important communications at a regular time and day.  Once people begin to expect important news on a schedule, they will be much more likely to look for it.

I concentrated on emails today because that seems to be the most common mass communication tool used in businesses.  People that distribute a lot of emails are under the assumption that the emails are being read and actions are being taken in accordance with the directions given.  That needs to be more than an assumption.

You have to take the time as an organization or a team to make sure those communications are being read and understood.



One thought on “Communication – Don’t Use A Fire Hose

  1. Pingback: Communication – What To Share | Holistic Project Management

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