lean manufacturingLean manufacturing cost-effectively produces the right number of products to fill orders — rather than making as many as a line can handle. Effective communication focuses on the other party and creates an interest in receiving information — rather than shoving out as much content as possible.

You don’t have to look far for abuse on this one. The email thread that started two years ago and is still bouncing around with no resolution — because it’s so easy to hit “reply” and “forward” without thinking. The nearly daily e-newsletters you receive from people you don’t remember ever meeting. The analytic person who sends you volumes of information on a topic because he truly believes “more is better.”

No wonder we’re all on information overload. It seems too few people are thinking about what we need versus what they want us to do.

It’s up to us to break this cycle. Here are some questions to consider to ensure we’re not part of the problem.

Trick #1: Is this communication really necessary?  

Take that extra second to consider what the people you’re trying to reach really want from you. If it’s that analytic guy: he can hardly wait until you send more data, so go ahead! But what if it’s someone who already received hundreds of emails today — and is unhappy about it?

Do we need to send the email with a bit of information this morning, another with some more this afternoon, and a third tidbit tomorrow morning? Sometimes it’s better to wait until you have it all and can send just one. Why risk annoying the person you’re trying to reach?

Trick #2: Is this the best way to communicate?

Back to that endless email — like those mythical fruitcakes at the holidays that circle the globe. One of the main reasons this happens is no one picks up the phone and has a five-minute conversation — or even worse, people won’t walk down the hall and poke their heads into someone’s office for a quick decision. Ask what’s the most efficient way to get something done, rather than what’s the easiest way for you.

Trick #3: Am I really adding value?

This is my beef about e-newsletters. I understand the theory: provide some good information to showcase the value my company offers, which encourages potential customers to contact me. But too many of them seem to scream “me, Me, ME!” 

They may begin with a chit-chatty tidbit about what the author has been up to lately. They may follow up with a project they just completed, which they thought was interesting (so you should, too). They may give you platitudes about your industry to show they know it (aren’t you tired of reading about “what you can do in a sluggish economy” — which begins with hiring their firm?). 

The best ones — and the only ones anyone really reads — are the e-newsletters that give us ideas we can use to make improvements right away. So when you’re doing a newsletter, put the value up front — and save the happy talk about your latest holiday for a Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest posting.

As long as I borrowed from the evolution of manufacturing to make a point, let me take a page from science, too. “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.” By showing respect for the needs of the people you’re trying to reach, you will earn theirs. This increases the chance they’ll take or return your call and actually read the emails you send.