I recently told my folks:

- if it's urgent (need to know right this minute) or a scheduled meeting (like an O3), I'll pick up the phone and call you.

- it's semi-urgent (a same-day kind of thing), I'll send an instant message or do a chat room.

- if it's just information being passed along or if there's an extended due date (a week or so), I'll just send it in email.

In the last few days, I saw someone here say words to the effect that "email should hardly ever be used."

Perhaps I'm lucky in that there are very few truly urgent issues requiring me to pick up the phone, I've found that I send considerable information to my team through email.

Do ya'll really think I should be picking up the phone more often, especially considering 6 our of 7 of my DR's sit in other offices?

rgbiv99's picture

I struggle with this same question. Our company culture is to stop by someone's office or call them every time we have a question/need. This is very annoying and disruptive to everyone's workflow and concentration, especially because we don't have linked calendars and therefore have no idea what someone is working on at any given time. At our company, if I can send the info/request over email I will do that so the recipient can handle the request when it is convenient for them.

On the other hand, since relationships are the most important thing, it seems that M&M favor face to face contact over email as much as possible.

I don't really have an answer for you - just that I have wondered about this myself.


jhack's picture

It's all about people. Your rules strike me as odd. The rules for using email or phone or IM cannot be reduced to the level of urgency of the communication.

You need to stay in touch with your people.

IM is overused; try a phone call instead.

The goal isn't just exchanging information. You should be creating trusting relationships with your team. That means richer interactions: in person, and on the phone.


ashdenver's picture

I'd like to reiterate that 6 out of 7 of my DR's sit A THOUSAND MILES AWAY so as much as I would absolutely love to have face to face meetings and chit-chat, say good morning, go out for lunch, etc., it's cost prohibitive. (Never mind the fact that we are on "travel lockdown" until further notice.)

Additionally, since they don't sit anywhere that I can see them, I can't tell if they're busy, at their desk, etc. If it's not urgent, I don't see a need to interrupt them from what they're doing. More often than not, when I call for an O3, the DR's will put a client or fellow associate on hold to catch my call to tell me they'll be ready momentarily. I don't want to butt into the flow, ya know?

My "rules" aren't rules, per se. They're just kind of how I tend to operate. Our O3's and team meetings and random other phone calls are all quite comfortable at this point (after about three months together.)

I keep saying that "things roll downhill" and trust me - a lot of things come rolling my way! In the last two days, I've sent the entire group a total of 5 emails, 3 of which have attachments.

Is it really appropriate to make 7 phone calls to repeat the same information 7 times? Trust me when I tell you that it's NOT appropriate (in our organization) to withhold the information until the next scheduled team meeting either. So when the message has to be communicated ASAP, is the suggestion to really make individual phone calls to express the newest policy or procedure change, pass along the gist of an article, provide training opportunities?

We meet every Monday for a 15 min full-team huddle.

We chat once a week for 30 mins individually on the O3.

There's a monthly full-team meeting for 90 mins.

There's a monthly our-team-only meeting for 60 mins.

We communicate much more regularly via asynchronous methods (email, IM) because it allows us all to be flexible, decide on an appropriate time to address something, not disrupt our workflow, in some cases multi-task.

This team is 90% virtual so it *feels* to me like there's a certain appropriateness to the virtual communication 90% of the time.

P.S. - as a side-note, my own boss sits about 1,500 miles away from my office and he will invariably send me an IM to ask if I'm available before calling me directly. If I'm not available right away, he'll sometimes tell me "don't worry about it, I've sent it via email instead but if you could get back to me by X time" and other times he'll tell me "just let me know when you're free." I'm now conditioned so that when I get "are you available?" in IM, I just reach for my telephone headset! LOL

jhack's picture


Ya, we know. A third of my directs and my boss are in other countries, as are all but one of my peers. We're spread across every major country on the planet.

You asked, "should[I] be picking up the phone more often?" and my response is, "Yes!"

Of course the telephone is not a broadcast medium. And all forms of media have their uses.

Horstman's Law #1: It's all about people. The goal is not simply the most efficient information flow. It's about good relationships. Good relationships come from the quantity and quality of the interactions you have with other people.

It's not always the most efficient, that's true. In the long run, the investment pays off.


PS: 15 minutes per week for a team meeting seems very short to me. Have you considered the MT staff meeting format?

ashdenver's picture

The huddle concept is not one I have control over. It's something that's "all the new rage" in our new alignment and its intended purpose is "just to offer a quick place to touch base to start the week" rather than to actually build teamwork per se or develop relationships. Trust me, I'd love to abolish them entirely.

Anandha's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Half of the development team is based in India - here is what we do

- daily status updates on the phone with the project team. We use below agenda per person and everyone speaks. Meeting time boxed to 1/2hr.

  • what have you accomplished since yesterday against your plan
  • plan until next meeting
  • If you are behind, what is your plan to catch up
  • issues/concerns

- an electronic "micro schedule" detailing tasks for next 2 weeks

  • by the Monday meeting, next 2 weeks planned out at a detailed level
  • e.g. code class xx, java doc class xx, review code for xx, meetings, etc. something people can say - yes i did that, and it makes sense.
  • micro schedule must map to mid-level plan

- we have a group IM channel - for urgent issues or group discussions

- information cascades are done in the daily meeting (usually on Mondays), in the IM group channel + followed up by email (in case people on hols or sick)


Several points you raised

re: More often than not, when I call for an O3, the DR's will put a client or fellow associate on hold to catch my call to tell me they'll be ready momentarily.  - why aren't these fixed recurring meetings? Also, i tend to ask people on IM - "Hey, do you  have 5 min for a call regarding topic xzy?" - tends to work quite well.

re: Is it really appropriate to make 7 phone calls to repeat the same information 7 times? - if the information needs to go out now now - i would broadcast on the group IM channel followed by an email, and bring up at the next daily meeting.

I would say i am slightly confused by your "rules". Some type of people (like myself), don't do rules to well.. :)

good luck




ashdenver's picture

Wow, you guys sure are literal! I will most definitely be much more conservative in my use of the word "rules" around here.   Those "rules" are just general guidelines I use for myself and do not expect anyone else to adhere to them. 

I'm kind of sorry I brought this up - or at the very least, I think I've learned a valuable lesson regarding verbiage.

Ponnamp/Anandha, the O3's ARE fixed recurring meetings.  Since I cannot control who calls my DR's, let alone the times they decide to make those calls, there are occasions when the DR happens to be on the phone & hasn't had a chance to fully wrap up with the client by the time I call at the fixed recurring time.  The DR's are generally gracious enough to put the client on hold briefly to grab my call to let me know they're just finishing up so that I don't end up going to their voice mail, leaving me to wonder whether they had blown off the fixed recurring meeting.  (Because they are fixed recurring meetings, I didn't think I needed to send a pop-up in advance to ask "Are you ready for our weekly O3 now?"  I just assume they're ready, like I am, and pick up the phone directly.) 

US41's picture

Any time you reach for an instant messenger, I would recommend you make a phone call instead. Never, ever use IM. It's just an interruption machine.

That simplifies things down considerably:

  • If it can wait, use email
  • If it can't, use the phone
  • Use the phone for things that can wait also


Glenn Ross's picture

When I was in Operations, I had 10 directs reporting to me. I made it a point to call or physically visit with each one of them at least every 10 business days. At the time, I was traveling 3-4 nights a week so it wasn't always easy. I couldn't do it in five days. These were not 03's. I usually called under the pretext of asking for their advice or giving them a non time-sensitive update. I never used this category of calls to coach or provide anything but positive feedback. They were deliberately designed to be non-stressful and to give my directs an opportunity to initiate discussions with me. Over a period of time, I built my team into the best in my division.

I also looked for examples of praiseworthy behavior on their part, then contacted them as soon as possible after I learned about it. Most of these folks were in small "one-man" offices and they were somewhat isolated from the "bigger picture."

I like the fact that your communications expectations are clear. I think it was Dale Carnegie who said, "90% of all management problems are caused by miscommunication."

BLAB (Bottom line at the bottom): Electronic communication works well in many cases, but the human voice frequently trumps it.