Remote control: Lockdown your IT project email and communication habits
I hope I find you well. These are strange times aren't they?
I've had many conversations this week with colleagues, clients and IT Project acquaintances about where we are as an industry.
It's a mixed picture.
Some IT projects are on hold as businesses hibernate and try to weather the storm; others roll on in anticipation of the day that this is all over and the return on investment will be a better placed operation ready to respond; a few have gone into overdrive as the deliverables are needed now to accommodate increased online activity and changing customer behaviours.
What is interesting, is how everyone I spoke to said roughly the same thing. They have taken this time of change to think about how they go about their daily business, how they spend their time and especially how they communicate within their projects.
To be honest, this matter of how we communicate has been rather forced upon us! Eight weeks ago, "Who's Zooming Who?" was a question only Aretha Franklin had ever asked (just showing how ahead of her time the Queen of Soul was) – now it's a common question as we find new ways to stay connected.
It goes beyond the mechanics of how the meetings happen though. I have found that Zoom meetings are shorter than equivalent face to face meetings in a cosy boardroom. Maybe it's the delay that sometimes accompanies these calls; or the risk of a freshly showered family member walking into shot behind me; maybe it's just that working from home means that if I get all my work done by 3.30 pm I can hit the garden on a sunny afternoon. Whatever it is – I tend to try to be in and out of virtual meetings and back to work a lot quicker, on average I believe I'm shaving about ten minutes off every meeting that would usually have lasted half an hour.
I wrote about this once in an article titled "How to run an IT project meeting. The musky scent of success, do we all need to be more Elon!?" but even I have to admit it is only this forced new way of working that has focussed my mind to practice wholly what I preached here.
And this got me thinking. What other "sharp cuts" could we make now in preparation for when things return to normal? What lessons can we learn that will make us leaner and more efficient when restrictions are lifted and we can return to normal?
Many of the industry colleagues and clients I spoke with told me that they have totally changed their relationship to email. Emails can be anything from a quick confirmation to an escalation, from a rebuke to a word of praise, from a 'heads up' to a scope change request.
Many serial emailers have told me that they have discovered this amazing new technology – the telephone! I've had conversations with people I'd previously almost exclusively communicated with via email, in fact, one guy I've worked with for years (albeit from a distance) told me I didn't sound like he imagined!! We've had communication for years but only heard each other's voices in this last month!!
When you consider why you email someone, it's easy to quickly identify the emails you can replace and map out better ways to communicate. For example, when I ask for information or an update on progress and I send an email, I rarely get an instant response. BUT what if I call the person? I would not only get a more immediate answer but also not have to deal with the email clogging up my inbox on it's return. Plus, I also get to speak to a colleague and foster a relationship.
Saving The Planet
One of the most amazing side effects of this global lockdown is the benefits to the planet. Fewer flights and car journeys mean air quality is improving, even cities with skies renowned for smog are starting to clear. Did you know that reducing emails can have a beneficial impact on the planet too?
It's true, apparently, you can actually reduce your carbon footprint too:
Sending even a short email is estimated to add about four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere. To put this into perspective, the carbon output of hitting "send" on 65 mails is on par with driving an average-sized car for a kilometre (0.6 of a mile). Makes you think!
Often, when we're called in to rescue IT Projects that have lost their way, we come across a lot of the usual suspects: scope creep; unrealistic budgets; overambitious timescales; etc.
More recently, we started seeing a new trend - projects that are failing just because they are heaving under unnecessary layers of CLUTTER! We published a whole article on this too titled "Be an IT Project Marie Kondo - declutter your Portfolio". It's about how we could all do with freeing our IT Projects from the shackles of unnecessary clutter!
If you haven't heard of Marie Kondo, she is a Japanese tidying guru. In her Netflix programme, she promises that her "KonMari" method will deliver, not only a de-cluttered house but also a clean and de-cluttered mind. This forced new way of working has certainly encouraged me to declutter!!
These are changing times, and in Project Management we are used to change, but this is off the scale!
Get in touch and share any ideas about how you're finding that the way we are being forced to work could actually BE the best way to work, and any IT Project Management sharp cuts that you're going to take into your post lockdown life.