Why email continues to be a poor project management tool

There’s no doubt that anyone who devotes a minute’s thought to it will conclude that email is a nearly useless tool for project management. Why then does email continue to be the default tool for most project management activity?

My first thought is that few people, in fact, devote any thought to the systemic role of communications in project management settings. If they consider communications at all, they assume that sending messages implies that they will be effectively received. That is not a symmetry that can be safely assumed.

For those experienced and wise enough to get past that barrier, they still need to become aware of the spectrum of potential choices for technologies to support relevant project communications and to invest design effort to use those technologies to create an effective communications environment. Ploughmann’s 10-to-1 rule is a good starting point to keep in mind as you start that design effort.

Lars Plougmann’s 10-to-1 rule of Email

My pal, Lars Plougmann provides us the fundmental law of the universe that demonstrates the stupidity of email-based collaboration:

#9 people read the email
# 8 people file the email (in their private folders, thereby duplicating effort)
# 7 people are interrupted in their work or thoughts when the email arrives
# 6 people will never be able to find the email again
# 5 people didn’t actually need to know about the change
# 4 people joining the project in the next phase wouldn’t have received the email
# 3 people will be able to find the email again, should they need to
# 2 people will check back to the email at a later date when they need the information
# 1 of them will understand the email in context, be able to find it at a later date and act on it

It’s like a vampire, sucking our plasma.

Essay Scam Busters