There are stories of massive success in sales because salesmen followed up multiple times, kept in touch with the prospect and finally closed a million-dollar deal. And, there are stories of success in scoring a job because the candidate followed up multiple times with the hiring manager to get the dream job.
And finally, there are stories of massive success in the workplace because employees followed up with other employees about their emails, meetings, and statuses. WAIT! NOW THAT WAS NOT TRUE.
Yes, follow-ups are evil. This article is dedicated to discouraging follow-ups when it comes to internal communications.
Some of us (yours truly included) have told their subordinates to keep following up with other team members because of a freaking deadline that is impossible to meet if others don't come along on-time. I have seen the question "Why did you not follow up" posed to employees as if it was their job to follow up after the recipient did not bother to come to a meeting that had 2 calendar reminders set for it.
The follow-up culture is truly evil because it sets a precedence that if it's your work, you need to follow up and I am not responsible for (being an asshole and) not responding.
What's the solution?
Simply put, discourage follow-ups at work, & if possible, do that in a single blow: A small organization (less than 200 members) can call a company-wide all hands meet to communicate with all seriousness about "No Follow-up Rule". This is not a crazy waste of time, it is worth every bit because investing 200 person-hours worth meeting for the whole company (just for this) will save an innumerable number of person-hours in the near future that are caused due to follow ups.
Or, you could take a structured approach as part of setting the right company culture. Some easy hacks:
All employees must reply within 48 hrs. Failing to reply in this time (again and again) needs be backed by a pretty good reason.
Default Alias Practice
Every email is sent to an individual(s) and a default email alias is included to ensure the alias owner makes it a point to reply in the stipulated time if the individual isn't. This is like having a facilitator and owner (who has pretty much 2 hours job every day) to ensure email communication is happening as expected and things don't fall in the gaps. Not the best of ways, but to tackle pure evil, it's ok to side with a lesser evil.
Backlog Review & Status
Just the way you want it. Set the template and format of how each documents their backlog and send status. It's funny when managers ask (follow-up) for status that you had sent in the status report.
Tech to the Rescue
No wonder ticketing systems and project management tools are so very needed in this culture of follow-ups. We forget to respond or we forget to follow-up.
Either way, the source of the problem is forgetting to respond. So, these management tools give us 5 notifications on our phone/tablet/desktop/watch so that we respond on-time or be reminded to manually follow up the 6th time.
Things have escaped me a few times, and people have had to follow up with me; which is a shame. I feel really sorry (like truly and deeply sorry) and I've corrected it by being/using:
Great at note taking (Evernote and simple pen and notebook)
To-Do/Task management tool (Swipes on desktop and phone)
Project management tools (Asana, and in enterprises, it's JIRA and RTC)
Reminders (Google Calendar & Siri, and by making email as unread so that I remember to reply)
Over-communicative (on email/messages) to the point that people get fed-up
So, for internal communications, do you still think follow-ups are a necessary evil? Or is it that they are pure (& unnecessary) evil.
Founder of www.mamanames.com
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