If you need me to do something, ask me directly

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 20th July 2021

So much of the work that we are responsible for involves asking other people to do things, or provide necessary information. And of course, it requires others asking us to do things or provide information as well.

In the past, these requests would have been made verbally, by memo, or in more recent times, via email. I distinctly remember as a kid visiting my dad’s office and playing with his carbon memo pad, where he wrote memos that were distributed to his team.

But over the last couple of years, as new collaboration systems like MS Teams have come online, work can be delegated or requested in so many more ways. Someone might ask us to do something in a meeting, on a phone call, via email, via text, or through a post on a Teams channel.

We need to think carefully about the best way to communicate work requests or delegations. We all have our own preferences, and my preference for receiving actions is an email into my Inbox. And that is because email is a direct communication method. My Inbox is a space that I control well, and I trust that things will not slip through the cracks if they arrive there.

The challenge with requesting actions using tools like MS Teams is that Teams is an indirect communication method. You are posting something in a collaboration space and rely on the right people looking at the post in a timely way and trusting that they will spot the action and take ownership of it. The risk is that we are all busy, and we may not review the post, or spot that there is an action.

At least with an email, it is being sent directly to my Inbox, and so long as I manage my email well, it should not get missed. The email can also be turned into a timed action in my calendar or task list very easily, making sure it does not get forgotten.

So, let us all get on board and use Teams for the things it is good at – the sharing of contextual information related to the projects, processes, and problems we are collaborating on. But let us also discuss how we will delegate work and request information in a way that makes it easy for the recipient to receive and action it.

Here are a few strategies you and your team could adopt to ensure the effective transfer of work and information:

  • Agree to always delegate work verbally or via email
  • If both parties are using Tasks in Outlook, consider assigning a task to them
  • If the work is related to a Teams Channel post, use the Share to Outlook option in each post’s menu (this creates an email with a link to the post)
  • @mention the person involved so that the post appears in their chat view in Teams
  • Link an MS Planner plan to your Teams channel and assign a task through Planner (this will also generate an email to the recipient)

When you nail how actions are communicated across your team, it is always win/win. The win for them is that it is clear when there is an action that they need to manage. The win for you is that your work is more likely to be actioned in a timely way.

It is definitely worth the effort to get this right.

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