Friday, November 11, 2011

Forward me that email?

Back when I worked with Molson, so many years ago (Hi Molson!), we set up a system. No article was ever forwarded without a succinct 1-sentence description of why you should care.

Why? Because a link and a "this is cool" subject line is absolutely useless.
  • On a plane, I get no access to it - and in consulting this was a significant amount of my time
  • Half the articles written on earth seem to bury the lead anyways, so I have to read a lot to determine what is cool
  • If it's relevant to a specific area of my work, I'd like to read it in context. If it is a bouncing kitty on a trampoline, I'd like to read it when I have a need for levity. Swapping those is more than annoying
Increasingly, I'd like to extend this to all email forwards. I get dozens a day - and they often have the useful statement:

See Below. Can you help?

Below tends to be an interminable string of unmitigated madness, often starting with "can you make a meeting in the Hague on Thursday", and somewhere in the middle, mutating to a need for better cheese in the conference room, and finally asking if there's a slide on the market value of canned meat - with which, I'm presumably to help.

If I am particularly unlucky, half the communications will be in Catalan or Mandarin, and there will be no context as to whether the canned meat slide is external or internal. And, the request is always mildly urgent, as most canned meat market sizing slides are.

So, how do we remedy this? With a new rule:

If you're going to send a forward, write a whole sentence explaining:

a. Why I should care
b. What specifically you want me to do
c. When you need it done
d. Why you're so sorry that this request has come in at 5pm on a Friday but it's urgent because the canned meat market is collapsing before our very eyes

Else, expect your request to be... neglected. Not because I hate you or find your email font offensive, but because I can't get through all the madness in your forward to actually serve your request in the slivers of time between meetings and in the boring bits of conference calls.

Thank you.

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