Monday, November 8, 2010

My Five Rules of Corporate Communication

I wrote these mostly with email in mind but some apply just as well when dealing with others in person.

Rule #1: Always be sincere and professional.

Sarcasm doesn't convey well on email or any medium where your audience can't read your body language or receive any speaking cues. This especially applies if your targeted audience isn't familiar with you; although your team might understand and laugh when you're sending out the latest Daily WTF found within your own code base with a snide "yeah, THAT was a good idea" attached but the company-wide developers mailing list likely won't.

Rule #2: Assume people are sincere and professional.

This rule just follows from the first. If you are sincere and professional, other people will be sincere and professional to you.

Rule #3: Assume people keep what you send.

My first manager told me that it might be helpful to keep all the email you ever receive. Boy howdy was he ever right. Not only do I have a wealth of information at my fingertips to search through but it has saved me a few times from people getting away with "No no no, I didn't say THAT...". It also helps when dealing with some people whose turnaround on support issues is a day or two longer than Outlook's auto-delete policy.

This, in turn, has me thinking now that I cannot get away with the same dodge because someone out there will have my original email archived and will call me on my BS. Outlook, like the elephant it is, also never forgets -- beware that the rant you send out may not find its way into the bit-bucket in the sky when you hope it does.

Rule 4: Email conversations are meetings.

Well, almost. The big difference is that there's no one to cut you off in the middle of your diatribe and say that it's Dave's turn to write. Have a point or agenda. Don't beat around the bush. If you diarrhea'd three pages of text to the screen and still haven't reached your point then it's time for some editing. It doesn't just take time for you to write your novella but it also takes many people lots of time to read it. Email, like meetings, takes up time.

Rands in Repose has a great piece on running meetings. In it he says that a well run meeting is one that needs to never happen again. The same applies to email.

Rule 5: Consider your audience.

Double check that you are addressing the right people. Does your boss's boss really need to know that Bob broke the build? Probably not.

Use To:/Cc: properly. Put someone on a To: line if you expect a reply from them, Cc: if you just want them to be aware of what's going on.

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