I’m going to throw out a concept that might seem ludicrous.
We need to communicate less.
Before you conclude that I have lost all my marbles, stick with me here.
We send emails. We make phone calls. We distribute reports. We book meetings. We mail stuff. We talk to people. We CC, BCC. We FYI (for your information), BTW (by the way), and CYA (cover your arse).
And we do this without thinking twice about it. Do we consider the cost of all this communication?
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:
Diversion/multitasking costs: When we are interrupted my emails, calls, or meetings, we lose momentum and focus. This is another cost. Research on the myth of multitasking has showed that it can take as much as 22 minutes for us to get back to the mental place we were at before we were interrupted. Do you want to be the person who wastes 3 minutes plus 22 minutes of the CEO’s time so you can share that there are donuts in the break room? Or do you want to be the one to have your entire team spend 3 minutes plus 22 minutes EACH on your FYI/CYA update?
But there’s another important type of cost:
Opportunity cost: The cost of doing one thing instead of other things. Think of all the time that we spend on emails, calls, meetings, reports, and stuff in our physical and virtual mailboxes. If you could take all the time in a day that you spend on communication that does not make a positive difference or is so tangentally related to what you need to do – and you could do something else with that time, how much value could you create for your business?
I believe that communicating is one of the most expensive things we do in business.
Many managers feel communication is lacking – I think they mean that the communication is the wrong communication. These same managers tell me that they are overwhelmed with emails, cell phone calls, meetings, and reports.
If your department budget was charged $100 for every minute you spent communicating, would you choose your words more wisely? It is likely that the costs are that high or higher.