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Tuesday 9 February 2016

Draining the meeting bogs and how not to suffer from email overload (part 1)

Some meetings are important; sometimes face-to-face is the best way to work through an issue. And email is a necessary business tool. But in many of the organisations I work with, I've seen meetings and emails used as a crutch because their staff aren't given what they need in order to work more efficiently.

I blame IT for this, perhaps too harshly, but IT should be thinking both about how individuals communicate, and also about the requirements for teams to communicate.

In general, there are three broad ways that teams communicate:
  • With Tomes that answer "Who are we? What do we do? How did we get here? Why are we doing this?"
  • Using different ways to say "We're working on it"
  • By playing Information Ping-pong

To be efficient, it's important that staff from outside the team can "lurk" (watch what is going on) without engaging the team across all three methods.

If other staff can't lurk -- they will either email you or ask for a meeting.

What I see all too often is desperate staff, who are over-worked because they are forced to use email and meetings -- tools which are very ill-suited to all three speeds of communication.

I'll discuss each of them in follow-up blog posts; I'll schedule them for Tuesday each week unless something else more interesting crops up.

I'm hoping to put this together in a book (current working title: "Bimodal, Trimodal, Devops and Tossing it over the Fence: a better practices guide to supporting software") -- sign up for updates about the book here:

If you like this series -- and care about making organisations run better with better tools -- you'll probably find my automated estimator of effort and duration very interesting.

Greg Baker ( a consultant, author, developer and start-up advisor. His recent projects include a plug-in for Jira Service Desk which lets helpdesk staff tell their users how long a task will take and a wet-weather information system for school sports.

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