The Disconnect in Digital Communications

There is a significant disconnect in digital communications between how people receive messages and how they generate them.

What do people value when they send messages?
• a minimum of time invested by them
• fast replies
• useful answers that require little time to interpret
• that action occurs as quickly as the communication does

What do people value when they receive messages?
• clarity as to what they need to do with the information
• value, not the 60-80% of messages that get deleted as not useful or outright spam
• completeness, where all information they need to take action or make a decision is included in the message
• brevity, so that they don’t waste their time with that message; this is where the comment TLDR came from

How can we balance this divide in digital communications?
• Only include decision makers in requests for action.
• Provide all information someone needs to take action, even if that is identifying the person who can provide more info if required.
• Set up tiered information distribution. Only send the message to the first three people who can act in an urgent situation, moving to the next ten candidates to act as time goes by.
• Ensure that critical information is in commonly accessible locations instead of relying on messages to notify or inform people.
• Only send out status messages, meeting summaries and reports to those who care.
• Give people the option to opt out of automated notifications.
• Only send alerts to those who can act upon them or, as managers, need to know.
• Include instructions on how to escalate a problem or get help at the bottom of the message, like info on how to contact the help desk if the reset password doesn’t work.
• Train people how to get information they need so they don’t have to send five emails to as many people to try to find something that should be in a common data repository.
• Ensure that your automated message generation doesn’t turn into spam, such as notifying someone on vacation that an action needs to be taken before sending escalating warnings to them and a supervisor.
• Where possible, allow people to digitally manage delegation of tasks so that those not available don’t receive 20 notices that the delegate is working on.
• Create a central list of subject matter experts, so that no one has to ask, “Who can troubleshoot this?”