Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 3, Issue 29;   July 16, 2003:

Emailstorming

by

Last updated: January 17, 2021

Most of us get too much email. Some is spam, but even if we figured out how to eliminate spam, most would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?

Bonnie returned with six minutes to spare before her eleven o'clock — just enough to check voicemail and email, if she did both at once. Slipping on her headset, she punched pound-six on the phone, and clicked "Check Mail" on her screen.

As she listened to her voicemail, her email program began downloading the first of 28 messages. 'Amazing,' she thought, 'either I'm really important, or nobody respects my time.' After the seventh message, she had to leave for her eleven o'clock.

Emailstorming is like
brainstorming, but instead
of using our brains,
we use email
That's why she missed message 17, which announced the room change for her meeting. She would arrive late, as would three colleagues.

Bonnie's organization is experiencing Emailstorming. Emailstorming is like brainstorming, but instead of using our brains, we use email.

In the constant storm of messages, only a few have significance to their recipients. We spend too much time figuring out which messages we care about, and we miss important messages completely, or get to them too late, as Bonnie did.

Here are some causes of Emailstorming, and some tips for dealing with them.

Shotgun messaging
The sender "shotguns" the message to anyone who might be tangentially interested. Often, shotgunners want to be able to say later "I sent it out, didn't you see it?"
To keep someone "in the loop," send a private — possibly annotated — copy of your message. That way, they receive only the message, and none of the subsequent "Reply All" messages.
Annoy All
Sometimes Reply All is appropriate. At other times, a Reply All may actually be an "Annoy All." The risk of annoyance is enhanced when the reply is relevant only to the recipient.
Be selective about replies. Most often, only the sender needs the reply, but sometimes a few of the CCs want it too. Be judicious.
Mass announcements
A stormRoutine announcements sent separately by HR, Security, or other functions generate potential interruptions for every recipient. These messages are especially annoying when they apply to only a portion of the recipient population.
Consolidating non-emergency mass announcement messages into a weekly internal e-newsletter not only reduces inbox clutter, but also reduces interruption rates.

Implementing these solutions sometimes requires individual action, and sometimes coordinated action. For example, Management plays an important leadership role in addressing the problem of Mass Announcements.

Surprisingly, Management also plays a key role in solutions that require individual action. When leaders make the term "Shotgun Messaging" a part of the organizational vocabulary, they make it easier for everyone to recognize it when it happens, and they encourage everyone to address the issue directly with shotgunners.

There is a trap though. Distributing a link to this article throughout your organization via email risks violating the intent of sending it. Instead, get the message out by making Emailstorming a topic of an organizational meeting or training. Dealing with email problems in email is like throwing water at a flood. Go to top Top  Next issue: Poverty of Choice by Choice  Next Issue

101 Tips for Writing and Managing EmailAre you so buried in email that you don't even have time to delete your spam? Do you miss important messages? So many of the problems we have with email are actually within our power to solve, if we just realize the consequences of our own actions. Read 101 Tips for Writing and Managing Email to learn how to make peace with your inbox. Order Now!

Where There's Smoke There's EmailAnd if you have organizational responsibility, you can help transform the culture to make more effective use of email. You can reduce volume while you make content more valuable. You can discourage email flame wars and that blizzard of useless if well-intended messages from colleagues and subordinates. Read Where There's Smoke There's Email to learn how to make email more productive at the organizational scale — and less dangerous. Order Now!

For much more about Emailstorming, see "Emailstorming."

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenhZLYrRMtUnyjppRsner@ChacotqZAFalhYTBMgJWoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Jack-in-the-boxNo Surprises
If you tell people "I want no surprises," prepare for disappointment. For the kind of work that most of us do, surprises are inevitable. Still, there's some core of useful meaning in "I want no surprises," and if we think about it carefully, we can get what we really need.
The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill BridgeTen Reasons Why You Don't Always Get What You Measure: III
The phrase "You get what you measure," has acquired the status of "truism." Yet many measurement-based initiatives have produced disappointing results. Here's Part III of an examination of the idea — a look at management's role in these surprises.
A frost-covered spider webSome Limits of Root Cause Analysis
Root Cause Analysis uses powerful tools for finding the sources of process problems. The approach has been so successful that it has become a way of thinking about organizational patterns. Yet, resolving organizational problems this way sometimes works — and sometimes fails. Why?
A grove of quaking aspenFinding Work in Tough Times: Infrastructure
Finding work in tough times goes a lot more easily if you have at least a minimum of equipment and space to do the job. Here are some thoughts about getting that infrastructure and managing it.
ClarityBrain Clutter
The capacity of the human mind is astonishing. Our ability to accomplish great things while simultaneously fretting about mountains of trivia is perhaps among the best evidence of that capacity. Just imagine what we could accomplish if we could control the fretting…

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Writing and Managing Email for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

stacks of gold coinsComing January 27: Cost Concerns: Comparisons
When we assess the costs of different options for solving a problem, we must take care not to commit a variety of errors in approach. These errors can lead to flawed decisions. One activity at risk for error is comparing the costs of two options. Available here and by RSS on January 27.
A vial of COVID-19 vaccineAnd on February 3: Cost Concerns: Bias
When we consider the costs of problem solutions too early in the problem-solving process, the results of comparing alternatives might be unreliable. Deferring cost concerns until we fully understand the problem can yield more options and better decisions. Available here and by RSS on February 3.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenhZLYrRMtUnyjppRsner@ChacotqZAFalhYTBMgJWoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
So buried in email that you don't even have time to delete your spam? Learn how to make peace with your inbox.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
Dozens of articles about dealing with problems that come up in email.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!