Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Flavor of the Month and Email Commandments

I read a great little book last night by Martin VanDerSchouw called Flavor Of The Month, a leadership fable about management mantras, methodologies processes; practices. Learn what works in the real world.

I normally don't like "storybook" business books, but fairly early on in this I was gripped by a small graph titled "How acquisitions mislead". Although almost half of my growth through the years came from acquisitions I have seen many downsides. Although many people are in love with acquisitions, they are not in love with the success of the business. The gist of it is that often sales go up, but expenses also go up at the same rate so extra profit is not generated.

The sad reality of many acquisitions is that the synergy expected never transpires.

One chapter was called "First define the what, then define the how". I know the power of the How Question.

There was a great set of email rules. I know we all struggle with email volume.

1) E-Mail should be used as a confirmation tool and not as a primary means of communication.

2) Don't use e-mail to have hard conversations. Talk to people. This means in person, whenever possible.

3) Keep e-mails as short as possible. Use bullet points and lots of white space to convey information.

4) Avoid attaching filed in e-mails as it leads to all kinds of version management problems. Use collaboration software, hyperlinks, and references to ensure document consistency.

5) If action is expected from the receiver place ACTION REQUIRED: in the subject heading along with the requested action. Then explain the request following the rules.

6) For complicated requests, contact the receiver using a second channel of communication to confirm understanding.

7) Do not assume receipt of e-mail is the same as understanding.

8) Never reply to all when you receive an e-mail that makes you angry or upset. Everyone can tell someone (you or the original sender) is just covering their tail.

9) If you receive an e-mail that is upsetting try sitting on it for 24 hours. In man cases you will find that people did not intend for it to be interpreted the way you did, and a little cooling off will do everyone good.

There's another chapter titled "Manage deliverables not tasks". I guess this would be the same as saying don't be a micromanager, while at the same time setting appropriate goals.

One of the final chapters was called "Processing won’t get you there. People will". I do believe in many cases that it is the people who will get you there, however I am also a big believer n process, and think that good process helps average people become above average.

I know right now in my current position I am working hard to develop good process.

The final chapter is called "The new reality" and points out 7 ideas:

1) People change easily, but are difficult to change.
2) First define the what, then define the how.
3) Manage deliverables, not tasks.
4) Manage starts not finishes.
5) Performance metrics.
6) Late, over budget technical successes are failures.
7) The need for strategic alignment

All in all a good fast read with lots of gems.


At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent points about emails.
Looking forward to reading this book by Martin van der Schouw.

Jane van Houten
Principal Planner/MRPA
Ball Aerospace


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