“You’ve got to help us!” The man across the table from me practically came out of his seat as my single sentence resonated with him. All I had said at the Chamber of Commerce networking event last Friday was that we help organizations eliminate all internal email.
Such is the pain felt by most organizations. It is a self-inflicted pain, born of the decades-old habit of communicating internally by email. While technology has moved on over the last thirty years, organizations continue to use one of the first tools ever introduced when the internet began. Why? Because it is known, and it is easy. Unfortunately, known and easy are poor substitutes for efficient!
In a ground-breaking study from 2012, The McKinsey Global Institute found that 28% of every interaction employee’s day is spent managing email. Furthermore, the study found that an additional 19% of every day is spent searching for information (often hidden in past emails), and that 14% more of every day is spent collaborating internally outside of email.
As if that is not enough, the most shocking part of the survey was the statistic that only 39% of every day is spent doing “role-specific” work…that work customers are willing to pay for…the work that you want those employees doing!
You make money when your employees do what you pay them to do. Whether providing services or products to customers, your own worth is determined by the quantity of such services or products delivered. So what can you do to increase the amount of time your employees produce?
You could increase the efficiency of the work they do during the 39% of the day when they’re producing value. Given that you’ve already done Lean, Six Sigma, and a plethora of other improvement techniques on those value-added processes, there isn’t much remaining low-hanging fruit there however.
Perhaps the key is to focus on the non-value-added time spent collaborating internally. Trust me, there is a LOT of low-hanging fruit there and you can harvest much of it in the next week if you implement the chat functionality of Microsoft Teams (which you likely already have as a part of Office 365).
Teams is Microsoft’s most rapidly adopted business application of all time, and for good reason.
The persistent team chat and private chat features in Teams are intuitive. I’ve yet to see anyone struggle using them. End-users quickly adapt.
If Teams fails, there can only be one root cause. That cause is failure of management to set expectations for usage from the start.
EVERYONE must participate, given that the goal is to eliminate internal email burden. Therefore, you must expect EVERYONE to move to Teams. Make it a requirement of the job and it will succeed.
Teams is a powerful application, with many features that are worth implementing. But, since you’re looking for a quick win and immediate value, all you need to implement at the beginning are the persistent team chat and private chat features. That can be done with a two-hour staff meeting. Spend one hour showing the two chat features and another hour experimenting with the functionality.
That is all we did when we spent two hours this week with the organization referenced in the first paragraph. We spent one hour giving an overview of Teams and another hour practicing using it. Now, one week after that initial contact at the networking event, the management staff is free of internal emails and plotting a rollout for the rest of their organization.
Once you have implemented the two chat features in Teams, you’ll see an immediate elimination of internal staff emails. The increase in time for productive work may be small at first, but it will eliminate the need to actively handle emails completely. Your team will no longer have to move internal emails to subject-specific folders because the chat threads will be grouped by subject matter when they are created (as opposed to the standard email groupings of sender/date).
Now, instead of reading AND deleting or moving emails to folders, the end-users will simply read the emails and move on. A small gain to be sure, but a gain nonetheless. You should be looking for many small improvements over a short time that add up to great efficiencies over the long haul. (The most noticeable improvement will be the elimination of decision fatigue as they no longer have to decide what to do with emails!)
You’ll realize much larger additional time savings weeks and months from now when they use the powerful Teams search feature to find old conversations. (This is when they’ll decrease the 19% of every day spent searching for information.)
Additionally, when you move your staff's most important files to Teams (the second step of implementation), that same search box will keyword-search across all Teams and your One Drive at the same time it searches all chats.
Next week, I’ll cover the specifics of the two-hour staff meeting you’ll be having!
If you have questions about the tactics discussed in this article, please email me at [email protected].
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