You’ve got mail: writing for action

“To: Mary, John, Peter

Subject: budget

28,72% total budget implemented… on what else can we spend money for?

A good day,

Laurence”

The email received no response. Nothing happened.  It could have been as well written to the saints Mary, John and Peter.

Early in project management I received a valuable advice, which I gladly share: the efficiency of the receiver depends on the efficiency of the sender.

Much of the communication in projects happens through emails. When there is no response to that important email of yours, you might want to revisit it and your email communication style.

Some believe that “it is a miracle that effective communication ever occurs” (Carol M.Lehman and Debbie D. Dufrene, Business Communication, 16th ed. South-Western, 2010). The good news is that miracles can be produced, through trial and error, more trial, more errors untill the silver lining is there.

I gladly share a few magic tricks which helped me improve my project communication, with the disclaimer that I am still learning and still improving. Break the it down and inspire people to act. How? Politely by
A. bringing the issue to their attention,

B. making them aware,

C. motivating them: inspire them to adhere,

D. involving them: make them accomplices.

In short, make them want to do what it needs to be done and give them means to do it. At length, from the sender side, he/she needs to adapt the attitude to the receiver, propose a clear and acceptable objective, structure the essence in solid ideas, use arguments to explain and convince, propose a concrete and precise action. The effect on the receiver is as follows: he/she is attracted by the format, the objective is of interest, he/she retains the essence and is persuaded by the argument and knows what he/she has to do.

***
Going back to the email above, an option would be:

“To: Mary, John, Peter

Subject: for Action: an interesting budget issue

Our Financial Department just shared the latest budget report, which we all received i trust. The project we are in charge of show at the moment a modest spending rate of nearly 30% at the beginning of its second year of implementation. Delivery is indeed not the only parameter according to which projects performance is assessed, yet it is an important one. For the Department and the sponsor. The target is still 95% by the end of the project implementation.

Please find attached a detailed report on areas where budget underspending is recorded. I suggest to meet tomorrow to agree together on a recovery plan. I trust each will  bring his/her proposals and updated work plans to the table for the project to reach the delivery target.

I remain available to answer any question and support you the best i can,

With thanks,

Laurence

You might know the Buddhist joke about the email: A zen student asked his master: “Is it okay to use email?” “Yes”, replied the master, “but with no attachments.”  Wishing all to see the silver lining both in attachments and detachment.

More tips: “How to Write Email with Military Precision” by Kabir Sehgal on https://hbr.org/2016/11/how-to-write-email-with-military-precision

Also: Thrive Global

Steve Jobs Knew How to Write an Email. Here’s How He Did It

“Undoubtedly, Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs wrote several thousands of emailsthroughout his life. Relatively few of them have been shared with the public, and most of those are short responses to customer complaints.

But there are a few trails out there that show the skillful way Jobs used written communication. Let’s take a look at just one example and see what lessons we can glean from it.

[Note: This email was made part of public record when it was used as evidence in a U.S. lawsuit againstApple accusing the company of conspiring to raise the price of Ebooks in violation of antitrust laws. Apple was found guilty, although the company denied it had done anything wrong and fought the decision through the appeal process. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually declined to hear Apple’s appeal, meaning the company was required to pay a $450 million settlement.]

In 2010, Jobs and Apple were preparing to release the iPad. A key feature would be the tablet’s ability to function as an e-reader, similar to Amazon’s Kindle (which had already been out for a few years). Of course, the more publishers willing to contribute books to Apple’s iTunes store, the more appeal the iPad would hold.

Four major publishers had already signed on, but another, HarperCollins, was holding out.

Negotiations eventually centered around a key conversation between Jobs and James Murdoch, an executive at News Corp. (HarperCollins’ parent company). Murdoch wasn’t convinced his company (and its partners) could agree to the terms Apple was offering, especially regarding the “ceding of pricing to Apple.”

Jobs proceeded to write an email to try to convince HC to join.

Here’s what it said:

James,

Our proposal does set the upper limit for ebook retail pricing based on the hardcover price of each book. The reason we are doing this is that, with our experience selling a lot of content online, we simply don’t think the ebook market can be successful with pricing higher than $12.99 or $14.99. Heck, Amazon is selling these books at $9.99, and who knows, maybe they are right and we will fail even at $12.99. But we’re willing to try at the prices we’ve proposed. We are not willing to try at higher prices because we are pretty sure we’ll all fail.

As I see it, HC has the following choices:

1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99.

2. Keep going with Amazon at $9.99. You will make a bit more money in the short term, but in the medium term Amazon will tell you they will be paying you 70 percent of $9.99. They have shareholders too.

3. Hold back your books from Amazon. Without a way for customers to buy your ebooks, they will steal them. This will be the start of piracy and once started there will be no stopping it. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen with my own eyes.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see any other alternatives. Do you?

Regards,
Steve

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