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Lean Email Communication for Efficient Management Accountants

Emails have increased drastically and its role as the main communication tool is long established. However, many email communications are not efficient and just occupy our valuable time. In this article, we will have a look how management accountants can adapt a lean email communication and thus be more efficient. If you strive for a general lean approach of work, check our lean finance post.
Work email can easily eat up 15 – 20 % of an employee’s time because you end in a copy of an irrelevant email, formulations are unclear, the purpose is vague, email is the wrong means of communication and so on.
At every company I worked with, email culture was a topic. It seems people, or at least a large amount of them, are not able to communicate with emails in a satisfying way. As a result, guidelines were developed to increase the email efficiency.

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Lean email communication for sending emails

Here are my personal lean email communication tips for management accountants:

  •  Limit recipients: Limit the number of people you send the email to only those who actually really need to receive it. Often I see many people in the CC field. This is not lean email communication. Leave the CC as much as you can. For example, you are asked to send a finance report, send it only to the person who asked. No need to include your boss or other management accountants.
  • Pyramidal: Imagine yourself in the position of receiving a long and unstructured email. Not really what you like, especially when you are busy. So make sure your email is short, containing the relevant information but short. I personally recommend a pyramidal structure. In the beginning, you summarize the issue on a top level. Later in the message, you can add some more detailed info. If a manager asks you, for example, for his budget of a certain position, answer it right in the beginning. Add details, if really needed, in the next paragraph and probably attach an excel file with the budget details.
  • Make purpose clear: How often have you received messages and asked yourself what does this guy expect from me now. Make sure when you write an email that it is absolutely clear what your intention is. Do you expect an answer to a question, are you only informing, are you asking for advice? Bring your clear question right after your summary at the beginning and probably in the subject line.
  • Clear subject line: The first thing people see is the subject line. Make sure your email can be categorized and prioritized by only reading the subject line. I personally like to add at the beginning words like FYI (for your information), task, advice needed or similar.

Receiving and checking email

Lean email communication also includes how you handle incoming email. Here are some tips how you can be more efficient:

  • Switch off email notifications
  • Read your emails in bulks, for example twice a day
  • Immediately replay when bulk reading if it can be done in one or two minutes. If it takes work, schedule it up and go to the next email.

And in the end?

Applying the points above, you surely get more efficient and work towards a lean email communication. You can’t directly change your colleagues’ habits but tell them how you do it and how you save time. This should also motivate them to give it a try. I’m sure your new way of emailing will be appreciated by many busy managers.

 

Fancy sharing your experience? Have a go.

Adrian

I'm Adrian, a chartered management accountant with many years of practical experience. I studied strategy, financial controlling and entrepreneurship in Switzerland and England.

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