Monday, December 9, 2013

Answer YOUR Email? Ha!

One new form of digital power is
having your head explode.
When I was a CEO I could send an email to anyone in the organization and have it answered quickly, sometimes instantaneously.
I mistakenly came to believe that’s how email worked.  Worse yet, that everyone liked me.

When we were acquired and I suddenly found myself dealing with a huge organization, most of it above me, the pace of response to my emails slowed.  Substantially.  From the "speed of text" to the "speed of snail mail."  From minutes to days.  Later, when I became a consultant, my email slowed further still.  In fact, some of my consulting emails have never been answered.

It turns out that the “speed of email response” is a phenomenon so consistent and predictable that we can draw accurate organizational charts simply by measuring it.  

Where the email chart is at odds with the org chart, we have found someone whose real status (good or bad) differs from his or her title.  In other words, that’s the way the organization really works.

Sadly, instead of being liked, the arc of my email trajectory simply demonstrated a modern fact of business life:  If I have Power, you’re answering my email, and pronto.  But I'll answer yours more slowly and curtly, cut the email string whenever I choose, and will occasionally ignore you completely.

Such is the language of digital power.  I still know how important you are by your corner office, and your black turtleneck and jeans--but now I can smell you coming a hundred servers away.  Or not, as the case may be.