Stop Communicating @ Me

By Alan Minton, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Cornerstone Information Systems

As a father of three teenage daughters I greatly value good communication.  I zealously follow the admonition of my friend, Rock Blanco, that “You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth—use them proportionately.”  And I understand that listening is not waiting to talk.  Yet I must admit that, at times, I am overwhelmed and occasionally paralyzed by the level of communication that has been enabled by the wonders of technology.

As I outline some of the risks of our new found connectivity, I know I do so at the risk of sounding like one of those old Muppets in the balcony who start every pronouncement with “In my day…”  Thus let me make the disclaimer that I believe the benefits of our increased technological connectivity far outweigh the negative impact.

The first concern I have is a bit ironic: diminished productivity.  Two weeks ago I decided to measure how many times someone communicated with me.  Here are the findings.  On average I received 147 emails, 17 texts, 12 Skype conversations, 6 phone conversations, (9 missed calls), and 2 online sessions (think WebEx) per day.  On top of that, my colleagues use the following technology to share relevant business information: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammer, Chatter, Cosi, Lync, StatusPath, Fonality, and SharePoint.  I was amazed at how much time I spent searching for and responding to communication and how it reduced the amount of time I spent actually “doing.”

Second is the loss of accountability.  Technology has empowered those uncomfortable with confrontation.  Instead of speaking with someone face-to-face, you can send them a text or an IM and avoid potential unpleasantness.  Need to make sure you get credit for doing yourjob regardless of whether the problem is solved? Send an email that provides the bare minimum of information to meet the narrowest interpretation of the request and then check it off you list.  Need to share critical information with a large and diverse audience?  Drop it on Yammer and hope everyone used the right email to receive posting notices.

My third concern is the cost of knowledge.  I don’t mean the knowledge gained by shared information and experiences, but rather the knowledge required to be proficient in a myriad of communication technologies. I have used all the technologies above and they are super easy to set up and use at a basic level.  In fact, the user experience of many of these tools has driven positive changes within Cornerstone’s technologies.  What I am talking about is the advanced user experience, which is where the real efficiency gains are discovered. For example, how do you set up an alert in SharePoint when a new version of a critical document is updated and checked in? Or how do you create a notification inChatter when an opportunity for a specific account has advanced to a sales stage requiring additional input?  None of these are very hard but they do take some time to learn.

So what to do beside complain?  Here is my remedy, and I would be eager to hear yours (via whatever communication method you choose).

  1. Always err on the side of live communication.  Face to face is best, phone call second, instant message third.
  2. Limit email as a form of communication.  Instead, use it as a way to share critical information and documentation.
  3. Select your primary tool set.  Mine are office phone, cell phone, Outlook, Skype and FunnelSource.
  4. Block out “communicating” time and “doing” time.  Doing for me is 7:30 – 9:30 am and 12:30 – 3:00 pm.
  5. Try new things. I love Skype but maybe Lync is better. I have lived with GoToMeeting but join.me is pretty cool.  Maybe I should just go with VSee  as it is easy, reliable, affordable, and fast.

Today’s communication technologies are fantastic.  They have enabled us to connect with a diversity of experience that can only enlighten us and accelerate our success.  That is if we can master the possibility instead of becoming a servant to the process.