21 August 2005

Templates for more productive email

Here are some templates for the email tool I have talked about in previous posts. The idea is that we can increase our productivity by putting in place some standards for measuring communication effectiveness. I strongly believe email is the place to make it happen, and that email is long overdue for a redesign.

They are high-level at the moment. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas you might have that could make them better.

1. REQUEST

Date and time of request: [Automatically generated]
Request number: [Automatically generated]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Request: [What I want you to do] -- RSVP

Hi [Name],

Please [request].

Please respond with a yes or no by [Expiration date]

[YES]  [NO] [Please clarify] (html buttons)

If you need any more information please contact me at [Contact info].

[Signature]

2. ORDER

Date and time of order: [Automatically generated]
Order number: [Automatically generated]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Order: [What I want you to do] -- RSVP

Hi [Name],

Please [order].

Please respond with a yes or no by [Expiration date]

[YES]  [NO] [Please clarify] (html buttons)

If you need any more information please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature

3. CONFIRMATION

Date and time of confirmation: [Automatically generated]
Confirmation number: [Automatically generated]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Confirmation: [Item for confirmation] -- RSVP

Hi [Name],

This is to confirm that [Item to be confirmed].

Please reply to confirm the above by [Expiration date]

[Confirmed]  [Not confirmed] [I have a correction] (html buttons)

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature


4. INFORMATION/REPLY REQUESTED

Date and time of message: [Automatically generated]
Message number: [Automatically generated]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: FYI: [Information] -- RSVP

Hi [Name],

[Reason for sending information].

[Information].

Please confirm that you have received and understood this by [Expiration date]

[Acknowledged]  [Please clarify] [I have a correction] (html buttons)

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature


5. INFORMATION

Date and time of message: [Automatically generated]
Message number: [Automatically generated]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: FYI: [Information]

Hi [Name],

[Reason for sending the information].

[Information].

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature

6. NO

Date and time of message: [Automatically generated]
Message number: [Based on incoming message]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Declined: [Initial subject line]

Hi [Name],

In regard to your [Request, order, confirmation] (Below), I am declining for the following reason(s)

[Reason(s) for declining].

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature

[Initial email]

7. NOT CONFIRMED

Date and time of message: [Automatically generated]
Message number: [Based on incoming message]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Not confirmed: [Initial subject line]

Hi [Name],

In regard to your email (Below), I cannot confirm for the following reason(s)

[Reason(s)].

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature

[Initial email]

8. REQUEST FOR CLARIFICATION

Date and time of message: [Automatically generated]
Message number: [Based on incoming message]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Request clarification: [Initial subject line]

Hi [Name],

In regard to your email (Below), can you please clarify the following?

[Information that needs clarification].

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature

[Initial email]

9. CORRECTION

Date and time of message: [Automatically generated]
Message number: [Based on incoming message]
To: Name
Cc:
Subject: Correction: [Initial subject line]

Hi [Name],

In regard to your email (Below), please allow me to clarify the following:

[Correction].

If this is unclear in any way please contact me at [Contact info].

Signature

[Initial email]

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6 comments:

bignoseduglyguy said...

Dave

I use similar mails for a fair amount of my internal comms with my peers and direct reports, using letter codes in the subject field (UI=Urgent Action; AO=Awareness Only) to promote awareness and instigate action. These mails have the benefit of being recognisable and familiar by layout and letter codes, which helps folks process them mote intuitively.

Regards

Buzz

dave said...

This is great Buzz. Can you share the list of codes? I would love to put them out there for people to react to.

Mark at Swim said...

Great idea.

What you are doing is distilling the key information that is required for a meaningful exchange of information , and making sure the 'conversation' can be efficiently carried out with only two emails. Normally it might take several attempts to and fro to elicit all the information.

Of course, we could achieve the same thing in a face-to-face or telephone conversation where we have the benefit of instant feedback for clarification.

Still there are times when we need documentation of an exchange or it is not possible to talk directly with someone, so structured emails is one way of collapsing the feedback loops.

My only worry would be that we end up with 100 form emails to cover any situation that is likely to arise and people rebel against the whole system of apparent over-bureacracy.

Kitlat said...

Meh. Anything that promotes simplicity and efficiency is good.

Jamie Jamison said...

I like your idea. I am not sure I fully comprehend the purposes of a couple of your categories, though.

With regard to Order, do you mean something like a Sales Order, or are you intending something more like an order in the military (do this...).

On the confirmation front, I am not sure I understand why if two people were using your system to communicate they would ever need to confirm anything. That is, almost all of the items here require yes/no replies, so why the need for added confirmation? Or is the point here to confirm some understanding or assumption?

I appreciate the simplicity of the system, though. It would be interesting to see how the auto gen stuff would work in non-connected systems, i.e. when I were sending you an email where the numbering scheme didn't match up. You would need a way for the responder to include their own reference number to be included on future communications.

dave said...

Great questions Jamie. Allow me to explain further:

In my mind, the beauty of a concept like "order" is that it can work for both a sales order and a command. If you simplify the concept to its core, an order is any request that is coupled with authority, i.e., either because you acepted payment or because I am your boss, your compliance is mandatory.

To answer your question about confirmation, the idea here was that, should we have a conversation in person or by phone, I can later send you an email to confirm our agreement and/or action items for follow-up.

Does that make sense?