Working Outside the Inbox- 2012


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Working Outside the Inbox is a concept taken from Luis Suarez' experiments working in IBM without using email. This presentation is based on the WOTI blog series published on the "Notes from Rational Support Blog" at:
In this series we investigate some of the key items to use in your own attempts to reduce the overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox, and drive towards a more open, transparent, and collaborative culture in the workplace.

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  • Inspired by Luis Suarez, we have decided to follow in his footsteps this year Email is NOT a great tool for many things: discussions, decision-making, file sharing, file repositories, questions & answers, newsletters, announcements. We have the collaborative technology. We have the skills. It's just a matter of "walking the talk", and persevering. A whole lot of persevering. So we began our journey, with the “Luis Suarez Magical 3 Step Pattern” and added one of our own: Stop replying to email Identify conversations/tasks (use cases) that can be accomplished more easily, more transparently, more efficiently, or with less cost with another social tool. Start moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home. Slowly and surely. We added this one: Record your progress, set an example, and act as a change agent.
  • This would be more accurately described as “Mindful Processing of Email” but that wouldn't make nearly so many people's heads explode, which wouldn't be nearly as much fun. This is what we are really doing. Stop. Think of this as stopping the reflexive knee-jerk reaction of working in your inbox, simply reading and replying. We've all become very well trained by our inboxes: receive an email, send an email. Read your incoming email and then... Stop. Think. Ask yourself a few questions along these lines: is someone else likely to ask the same question? would this exchange, or the bit of knowledge/information shared, be of use to anyone else? what is the best way to share this information or conduct this transaction? is there a smarter, more efficient, more collaborative, open and transparent way to work?
  • Luis Suarez tells us that it's easiest to first break up the mail in your inbox into 2 categories: Things That Belong in My Inbox personal/sensitive/1-1 conversations calendaring/scheduling auto—notifications Things That Don't Everything else. Potentially. Here are some ideas: Requests for work can be better managed through work items in Rational Team Concert or "to dos" in Lotus Connections activities. Regular status updates/tips and tricks/project status emails can be posted as blog entries in your Connections community, and aggregated as collections through tagging. It all comes down to mindful processing of email, and spending just a couple of extra moments to stop and think .... is this the best way to share this information? Is anyone else likely to need this knowledge in the future? Think NOT just of the immediate, tactical need for information or action, but the ability to capture that knowledge/action for reuse so that the entire organization can benefit in the future, and not re-invent the wheel, or waste time recreating knowledge assets that folks aren't sharing.
  • Use the content repository or content management system of your choice as long as it's NOT YOUR MACHINE. Put your stuff where people can find it and get it. When people email and ask you for that information, give them a link to the information where you've posted it. Use wiki pages for knowledge capture and on-demand access. One example, instead of keeping your project status or metrics in a spreadsheet on your machine, think open and transparent and provide that data on a wiki page. if your manager expects a weekly status report, put it there. Use discussion forums for collaboration, idea sharing and brainstorming.....or collecting a quick temperature check from your community. Don't conduct a lengthy email exchange with one or more people about it. Use the community blog for news, announcements, and community-wide communications. Why blog? To take advantage of all the technology that allows us to share knowledge more widely ... tags, RSS feeds, aggregators, search.... the list goes on. Rather than sending an 800mg email try blogging your news. A couple of weeks from now, someone's going to ask you for the information again anyway. No, we're not giving up email entirely, and there will be times that we will (gasp!) send an email. We're just going to be mindful in our work and aim to get the maximum value from each interaction. So, stop and think. Just because a conversation starts in email doesn't mean it belongs there.
  • It might not sound that exciting, but we're confident the results will eventually be thrilling! Track your data: Tabulate how many emails you receive, sub-divide between the good emails and the bad, track how many you send out. Identify patterns and trends to help you adjust your tactics. Share your data so others can see the trends! When others see your results, more people will see the value and join in!
  • To work smarter, more openly, transparently, and effectively, you'll need to pick your battles. One at time, look at the pain points or areas of inefficiency and look to make one change at a time. One of the biggest issues and most easily corrected: Attachments. Email is NOT a file repository. So, what's a better way to share files? A link to where you've posted the file is infinitely preferable. Why not host the file in a single location and share that location out? Not only will this reduce our inbox sizes and keep us out of mail-jail, but it also means you only have to update one location when changes occur, rather than sending out another round of messages with yet another attachment. So, a good place to start? Start sharing YOUR files more smartly, and set an example for others, Gently guide others to better collaboration and file storage methods.
  • We knew this wasn't going to be easy. And we knew it wasn't going to be a quick project. Sometimes, it all starts with one email: one individual sends an email to a very wide recipient list. The recipients start replying .... to ALL. After a while, several requests to move the email thread to a discussion forum prove fruitless and your inbox has suffered greatly. Or, you might be working on a sensitive project that is not suitable for sharing, or are dealing with an executive request (also not suitable for sharing). Sometimes email IS the best solution. Perhaps you are working an urgent issue/project with people who are far outside your group, and driving them to a more collaborative solution is just not possible at this time. That's ok too. Repeat after me, one more time: Change is hard. This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. There will be speed bumps and there will be weeks that go better than others. And that's OK. Don't get discouraged, keep on keeping on, and even when things are going pear-shaped, look for the wins. You might have a huge email thread going on, but you've also got a lot more people than ever before realizing that it's not the best way. And what about all those other wins you've realized ... use cases identified, patterns adopted. There's good stuff happening - a lot of it. Remember, each speed bump is just another opportunity to model a better, a SMARTER way of working.
  • You know the pain: your inboxes are bulging at the seams with both critical information as well as those "nice to know" status updates. But what IS the better way? That answer all depends on your team. There is no single best practice or use case to follow here, even a combination may be best for you: Instant messaging statuses: Attentive use of custom status settings can do wonders to let your team know if you are available or not, on their time, when they need to know. Lotus Connections Profile statuses: Updating your Lotus Connections profile status can be a simple and easy way to unobtrusively let people know your avaialbility and needs. Intranet wiki page: A table on a wiki page can be easily updated by the entire team depending on how work shifts, and updates can generate auto notifications to let you know when changes have been made. Shared Team Calendars: If you're using Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook, you have team calendar functionality and should be using it. Smart use of calendaring for your team can provide quick views of current availability and higher level views into team dynamics. Internal microblogging: Assuming you don't want to use external Twitter or microblogging themes, there ARE internal solutions to microblogging which can be used for team updates. Mimicing Twitter in the following/follower and 140 character limit paradigms is perfect for quick status updates. The key to success is simple agreement and definition of expectations the whole team agreesupon.
  • Lifehacker shared out a blog post by Jesse Stormier: "Put Your Inbox in the Upstairs Bathroom" in which he changes his habits of email use by physically moving his email away from his work space. But, making email hard to use isn't really the point of "working outside of the inbox". Rather, the intent is to improve our collaborative efforts using tools better suited to the tasks and not automatically default to using email unless it really is the right tool for the job. So, let's make it easy! Where's the solution? What's the recommendation? Two simple parts come to mind here: Turn off notifications- Notifications are the biggest contributor to time wasted in the inbox. The need to address a notice immediately can often be too great to ignore, and thus the interruption occurs. So turn them off. Close your email client when you aren't using it- As simple as it sounds, out of sight out of mind, right? Don't leave it running and minimized, or in another browser tab. Close it. Completely. Schedule specific and focused time in your day to address your inbox messages, freeing you from the shackles of your inbox the rest of the day!
  • Take a moment and think about the last time you took vacation: how many emails were waiting for your return? Enough to make returning to work a daunting proposition I'm sure! To reap the benefits on returning, you will need to start implementing changes before you leave: Set your Out of Office notice to ask people to take their questions, updates, or file sharing to the right locations like forums or blog posts. Set expectations early that you won't be accessible via email. When you return from vacation, address only the critical “good” emails first, triage the rest. Use your collaborative tools when you return to let people know you're back and to begin more conversations. Use the time away as a good split from email to shift how others interact with you.
  • Working Outside the Inbox- 2012

    1. 1. Working Outside the InboxAuthors:Jason ODonnell, Smith,, 2012 Image credit:
    2. 2. Working Outside the Inbox- Table of Contents The Adventure Begins!  Step 1: Stop Replying to Email  Step 2: Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases  Step 3: Move conversations to the right home!  Step 4: Record Progress, Set an Example and Act as a Change Agent! One change at a time: Lets Talk About Attachments Speed Bumps ahead! Those pesky status updates Put your Inbox in the upstairs bathroom Returning from vacation A WOTI blog post Recap2 Image credit:
    3. 3. The Adventure begins:We began our journey, with the “Luis Suarez Magical 3 Step Pattern”…and added some of our own:Stop replying to email We added:Identify conversations Record your progressMove conversations Set an example Act as a change agent Image credit:
    4. 4. Step 1:Stop replying to emailThe more you reply, the more email you will receive.So, stop. Think.Is there a smarter, more efficient, more collaborative, open andtransparent way to work?4 Image credit:
    5. 5. Step 2:Group conversations and identify use cases Things That Belong in My Inbox Personal, sensitive, confidential, or 1-1 conversations. Calendar invites or scheduling notices. Auto-notifications. Things That Dont Everything else.5 Image credit:
    6. 6. Step 3:Move conversations to the right homeDon’t use email when youcan use…A content repositoryWiki pages.Discussion forums.A community blog.Instant messaging.The phone.Stop and think.Just because a conversationstarts in email doesntmean it belongs there.6Image credit:
    7. 7. Step 4:Record progress, set an example, and act as a change agent Tabulate total emails, categorize into good and bad, track how many you send out. Identify patterns and trends to help adjust your tactics. Share your data so others can see the trends and successes!7 Image credit:
    8. 8. One change at a time:Lets talk about attachments Image credit: Email is NOT a file repository. Use links pointing to where youve hosted the file.8
    9. 9. Speed-bumps ahead We knew this wasnt going to be easy. And we knew it wasntgoing to be quick.Repeat after me:Change is hard.Each speed bump is just anotheropportunity to model a better,SMARTER way of working.9 Image credit:
    10. 10. Those pesky status updates What IS the better way? Instant messaging status Connections profile status Intranet wiki page Shared Team Calendars Internal microblogging The key to success is agreement and definition of expectations10 Image credit:
    11. 11. Put your inbox in the upstairs bathroomBlogger Jesse Stormier changedhis habits of email use byphysically moving his emailaway from his work space.The intent is to improve ourcollaborative efforts by makingemail more of a chore.So… Turn off push notificationsClose your email clientSchedule specific and focused time for email11 Image credit:
    12. 12. Returning from vacationTo reap the benefits on returning, you will need to start implementingchanges before you leave:Set your Out of Office noticeto direct people to the right locationsSet expectations earlyWhen you return address onlythe critical “good” emails first,triage the rest.Use the time away as a good split from emailto shift how others interact with you.12 Image credit:
    13. 13. Working Outside the Inbox- A WOTI Recap Blog links to our Working outside the Inbox series on Notes from Rational Support:  Working Outside the Inbox: The Adventure Begins!  Working Outside the Inbox, Step 1: Stop Replying to Email  Working Outside the Inbox, Step 2: Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases  Working Outside the Inbox, Step 3: Move conversations to the right home!  Working Outside the Inbox, Step 4: Record Progress, Set an Example and Act as a Change Agent!  Working Outside the Inbox: Lets Talk About Attachments  Working Outside the Inbox: Speed Bumps ahead!  Working Outside the Inbox: Those pesky status updates  Working Outside the Inbox: Put your Inbox in the upstairs bathroom  Working Outside the Inbox: Returning from vacation  Working Outside the Inbox: Think Friday- A WOTI Recap13
    14. 14. Now go,and start workingoutside the inbox! Image credit: