Like most of us, I read a lot throughout the day. When I’m inspired by something I’ve read or when I learn how another company tackled a problem we are facing, I used to email it to the appropriate person in my organization. For example, if I read something on great design and ideation, I forwarded it to our design and UX team. If I spotted an article about clever approaches to coding processes, it went to our engineering team. The email usually read: “FYI,” followed by the URL link.
After sending these emails, I normally waited for their reply to start a conversation thread. But I noticed that the conversations usually ended at “Good article” or “Thanks, I’ll read it tonight.” These articles and emails didn’t start any movement. Sure, my team would read the article, but it wouldn’t evoke a conversation. Inevitably, something else would pop up that we had to address promptly, and the information would be lost forever in email purgatory.
As a company, I challenge my team to constantly improve and add to their skill sets each quarter. These “FYI” emails were an attempt to improve, but they were not doing their job. I realized that sending them wasn’t making me any better either. Something had to change, so I re-examined my methods.
The reality was that these emails were not “For Their Information.” Instead, I wanted my team to use the ideas in them to help make the company even better. I wanted them to let me know if they saw the same merit I did and hear their thoughts as experts. I wanted my team to read the articles within 12 hours and send me a note about whether they could use the information. And if so, I wanted them add an item to our agenda in the following days so we could see whether we could implement some of the ideas mentioned.
Setting that expectation — as well as adding the discussion to our task list/agenda for our weekly improvement meeting — cleared up any ambiguity surrounding what I wanted from my team. These emails were not only for their information. They are for my information as well. It’s important to both open and close the loop on dialogue like that. From an efficiency standpoint, it helps me learn more from my team and gives my team an efficient way to constantly improve. And, just as importantly, it opens my eyes and ensures I improve as well.
Now when I say, “Hey, let’s try this,” someone assigns themselves the task and sets a deadline. It’s important to create that action item and move to the next step in the email. This helps create a to-do list for our meetings as well. If there’s negative feedback, the person assigned can respond with their opinion. This forces feedback, breaking a high-level journey into small, bite-sized tasks. It helps us take small steps towards improvement and make sure that certain goals don’t get lost in the shuffle.
In short, we built a mini process to execute new ideas that could have a big impact on how we work. When I ask for opinions, I get thoughtful responses. Sometimes I’ll agree that a certain idea won’t work, and end the discussion there. Sometimes I’ll still suggest we try it and put it on a master to-do list so everyone can take a look. Implement soft changes at the right time. It’s important that you only explore good ideas with real business impact, and don’t just implement change for change’s sake.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Ankur Gopal is an entrepreneur and CEO of Interapt, a high-tech B2B mobile development and mobile strategy firm that builds cutting-edge solutions for smartphones, tablets, Google Glass and wearables. Before Interapt, he studied at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and worked at Accenture doing strategy and IT consulting for multiple Fortune 500 clients. Follow Ankur on Twitter at @AnkG.
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