Independent Thinking Blog

Are You Smart Enough to Scale?

Got e-mail?

Be glad people want your [help-time-advice-fill-in-the-blank].

I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing lately about e-mail volume. Often it syncs with hallelujahs about Google’s Priority Inbox feature, which some people seem to suggest is “the only mail I’m going to read.” And here I was thinking it’s a great tool to help prioritize what needs my near-term attention.

Seriously, e-mail volume isn’t the problem. You are (if you can’t figure out how to scale).

Two examples:

1. My first job out of college was to answer mail. And members of Congress get a lot of mail. My job was to open the letters and identify: (a) topics that could be answered with an existing form letter; (b) hot topics that required a new form letter; (c) easy-t0-answer queries; (d) letters that needed a custom response. (The truly personal stuff went into a separate stack for the congressman’s attention.)

2. When I was a little girl, I drew a picture of a pink bunny for my dad’s boss. Secretary of Boss sees it and determines that it requires a response. So she drafts one. He signs it. If Dean Rusk could do it, so can you.

The “Most Important People” I know today answer their e-mail, often far faster than I expect. The message this sends is that being responsive to employees, colleagues, and community is a priority and not a burden.

What message are you sending?

Photo by Theodore Scott (Flickr).

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