Because I am now officially an old bloke I often reflect on times gone by. At the weekend I was thinking about how much the routine of work has changed over the last 20 years or so.
In the late 1980s and into the 1990s I worked in the Education Department at Suffolk County Council. Each Friday the admin team would put together a folder of the “blue copies” i.e. a carbon copy (under 40? go and look it up) on very thin blue paper of all the memos and letters that each member of the management team had sent out in the previous 5 days. This folder would then do the rounds of the management team over the next week. Some of us even read them! The idea was we would all be sighted on what was going on. So a week after someone had written something (literally written it and then had it typed by a colleague in the pool) I would know about it, unless I had been directly copied the original letter or memo, which would arrive the day after it had been written or sent.
And then it all changed.
When email came along we could all write to anyone and copy everyone – and we still do. I seem to recall the number of letters of complaint I got doubled over night thanks to Alan Sugar and his Amstrad PC. It became so easy to write to an officer, several councillors and an MP now you didn’t have to write or type them out, and pay for them to be copied and posted. And the same was true inside the council with the advent of email. We still behave that way – we cc and bcc freely and sometimes unnecessarily.
Worse still, sometimes we – and I don’t excuse myself from this office etiquette failure – behave as though sending the email means the matter has been dealt with. I might have sent it at 645pm on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend, but that email means “I have done it!” regardless of the problem it causes for a colleague first thing on the following Tuesday morning.
The result is the snow storm. Umpteen emails everyday with maybe 1 in 4 being needed, or at least so it seems. Priority management – a phase invented in the stone age I think – is now more important than ever as without effective priority management we will all surely drown? But what do we mean by priority management? For some correspondents it means they won’t get a reply. It means some things won’t be done – at all. It means that time and energy will go on that which matters or makes a difference. Is there anything wrong with that?
For bike racing followers – my son David got a 2nd and a 3rd at Cadwell Park last weekend on his Yamaha R6. We’ll not mention the two DNFs in the other two races that weekend! #prouddad