The curse of e-mail

E-mail is an amazing technology which has transformed our world.  But what is more amazing is how we manage to find ways to use it which are completely unhelpful.

In an Agile environment, an e-mail can often be a very un-Agile way to communicate.  It removes the immediacy of face-to-face communication and encourages the mindset of putting the ball in someone else’s court, for example:  “What happened to the xyz issue?”, “I sent you an e-mail”, “When?”, “Yesterday”, “But I still have 100 e-mails to trawl through…”.

Then there is the amazing capacity for misunderstanding.  It is probably especially true of the tech world that we are tempted to believe that we can write things down precisely and unambiguously with one objectively “true” interpretation and we labour under the illusion that, not only will people be bothered to wade through the heavy text, but they will understand it perfectly, too.

The solution?  Ban e-mail!  Certainly within a single Scrum team for tasks related to the current sprint, I strongly feel that there is precious little reason for any communication to be had via e-mail.  Perhaps you may need to send an attachment or something, but I think this should be done sparingly and in a “guided” manner – ie: follow up the e-mail by telling the person that you have sent them something and explain why.

What?  Your Scrum team is distributed?  Even MORE reason to ban e-mail.  In such circumstances, the need to build a team spirit and to foster fluid, high-bandwidth communication needs special attention, so I recommend using every means of communication possible which ensures greater immediacy and contact, such as phone, messenger or Skype.

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