Sunday, March 25, 2007

Communication Cost

Just caught this great post from Lisa Haneberg that echoes some ideas I have had in the past, like a running clock that shows the running total cost of a meeting as it "progresses".

Top level costs: the cost of time for people to receive (hear, read) the communication and the cost for creating/delivering communication. If you send an email to your entire team of 50 people. And if the email takes 3 minutes to read, and 15 minutes for you to write - the top level costs are of people's salaries for the 3 minutes and your 15 minutes. Plus the costs of the email server time and space, etc... But the time is the largest cost. You may think this is a small amount, but multiply this times 100s of emails we deal with each day, and the costs add up.

If you book a two hour meeting with 15 people - the top level costs are huge.

But that's the just start of the costs. There are two other important types of costs...

I have thought about this in terms of meetings quite a bit. I've had lots of extremely expensive meetings to sit through. Meetings where our tax dollars were being consumed at unhealthy rates. Now, there are the people where having them in a meeting is actually more productive than having them cause damage through their other work, but it's hardly the optimal solution. However, applying this thought to email and phone calls is interesting.

Think before you send...I've been doing the whole "Inbox Zero" thing. It's really great that I don't have a huge unprocessed morass of email to look at it. I do have to get better about keeping up with my todo lists though. It's still easier for me to forget those because I don't have a blinking light telling me to look at them every time a new one shows up. Maybe it's not as fun to look at, because, unlike email, I already kind of know what is on my todo lists.

Jeffrey Veen and Merlin Mann were talking about how Google is a no phone call culture to some degree, everything is email, IM, with a definite preference for the asynchronous communication. Not sure how much of that is introvert culture and how much is efficiency, but it sounded like they were positively bombarded with email information there.

Maybe there is a real economic benefit to parsimonious communication, learning to be clear concise and brief saves money. Maybe this should apply to bloggers as well, I know there are people out there struggling to keep up with their feeds...on that note, I'll be signing off.


Sixty4Bit said...

You should check out David Seah's Printable CEO series. He is a designer who talks about the trials and tribulations of keeping up with his todo list. So much so that he has created specialized forms and calendars. He is an interesting read anyway.

I still haven't figured out how to keep track of my todo list. One of these days...

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

I think this is a cool idea but instead of deleting them I mark them as read, then pretty much ignore the rest.

What I do wrong at work is have an email notifier going off every few minutes. I think I'm going to start turning that off. It just becomes a big distraction. I'd turn my instant messenger off but that has become a main source of communication with the rest of the office and management.

Getting better at my job always has the reward of more work and responsibility. Oh well, I need to get more efficient now so I can continue to improve. So much to learn

Matt M said...

64b- I have looked into the Printable CEO, it's definitely cool. I think I would rather internalize the concepts of priority rank though than try to keep score. I also like keeping it all digital and portable, not an option for some folks, but great when you can. The best way to keep track of the lists is to review them frequently, and only do stuff that is on them. Harder than it sounds though.

Richard- I tried marking things as read, but then I kept finding myself re-reading those emails. I try to only read things once (DRY) and mine the actions from the email. Then the y key in Gmail becomes a good friend.

Email notifiers are evil. I put the governor on my treo to only download my mail every thirty minutes. There is no escaping the blackberry though...bad push.

Work flows to the competent man...