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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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10.3. Non-annoying email

As remedial a subject as it seems, email is still the most annoying system people on projects deal with. Simply as a result of the volume of email we receive, it's easy to feel pressure to read and respond to new messages as quickly as possible, often sacrificing good reading and writing skills. Most of us, most of the time, just don't read or write email very well. What's ironic is that the speed and convenience of email are squandered when we can't understand what the hell the other person is trying to say, or we can't get her to understand what we're trying to tell them.

And perhaps of most importance to project management: email is a primary means of communication for leaders and managers. In both creating new mail and responding to mail sent by others, a leader influences and controls the flow of information through a project. If a leader has clear thoughts and asks solid questions, she encourages others to do the same. One response to a large discussion with dozens of people can send a wave of clarity through the organization. But, the leader hurts the team's ability to communicate well if she expresses fuzzy thoughts and makes obscure or obfuscated points.

One major challenge is that few people admit that they send bad email. (Their inability to recognize bad email is part of why they're bad at writing it.) For example, take the following test: using your own subjective judgment, what percentage of email that you receive from people within your ...

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