French Company Atos Bans Email

A Better Way to Communicate

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French Company Atos Bans Email
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According to ABC News, the French technology company, Atos, will soon ban email.

While the French technology concern will focus its eradication on emails within the company, the Atos move follows email reduction movements that have been afoot for years. Sentenc.es is a site that promotes two, three, four, and five-sentence emails. The site advocates that "email takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it."

A manager at GE told me anonymously, "I only answer emails addressed directly to me, alone. I don't answer any cc. or bcc. emails."

Atos has already reduced its internal emails by 20 percent over the last six months. CEO Thierry Breton estimates that 10 percent of the average 200 emails his employees receive every day are "useful." Nearly 20 percent is considered spam. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Breton has not sent an email in over three years.

Advocates for fewer and smaller emails argue that we should treat emails like twitter tweets, where the writer is limited by a certain number of characters. Having a maximum number of words creates more focused writing. Email wastes time both in writing and in reading.

Aim Aids Awareness

Copyblogger magazine points out that over time writing "falls flat because you don't know what you're really looking for or trying to accomplish."

Although writing is thinking, an email is not the place to figure out what you think. I recently consulted a large technology firm and received emails from a manager who regularly wrote 600 - 800 word emails.

Twitter users know that 140 characters can do plenty. There's an entire blog dedicated to stories told on twitter. Students at Graland Country Day School in Denver, Colo. regularly use Wikis to collaborate on projects. "Nobody uses email anymore," a student told me. Likewise, Atos is considering similar means of internal communication whereby employees collaborate using social media, wikis, and online chat.

Once you sharpen your focus and boil down what it is you want to say, you'll be able to communicate a lot with a little. Hemingway was a master of this method as shown in his famous macabre six-word story. "For sale. Baby shoes. Never Worn."

If you want to know what employees think, ask them directly (face-to-face) and actually listen to their answers. Many times, responses come with body language and intonation that is impossible to communicate electronically. If you can, respond in person. You'll learn more and you'll get out of your chair, too. If you must write an in-house email, be direct, write informally, cut adjectives, use short sentences, and above all, make it brief.

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