It’s 8:15 a.m. Daniel looks at his inbox, as I repeat my question.

“How do you feel when you get to work and see 15 emails from the same person?”, I ask.

Daniel sighs. “I feel like if I never hear from him again it will be too soon.”

Daniel is referring to the 15 email in his inbox from Walter.  Walter is Daniel’s contact at a strategic supplier.  Together, Daniel and Walter are tasked with expanding the relationship between their companies, and reducing per item costs.  They work closely every day.

But is staring down 15 emails from Walter a positive way for Daniel to start each morning?

Much email advice focuses on how each of us can manage our inbox most effectively.  Getting to inbox zero means that I empty out my inbox effectively.   Now I can breathe and be calm.  I win!

But what happens in the bigger picture?  In the grand scheme of things, email is a giant ping-pong game. The challenge for me is to volley the last email of the day over the net into your inbox.  Tomorrow morning you volley them all back.  And on it goes, day after day, with little concern for the value being generated in the transaction.

Is there hope for improvement?  Can Daniel’s day be rescued?

Yes, there is hope.  One way is to join together and address email problem-solving as a team.  Change the “us vs. them” game.   Take a fresh perspective on email, as one tool among many, that helps us accomplish our goals, rather than as a transactional way to fritter away a perfectly good day.

A Rapid Improvement Event is a valuable framework for this kind of discussion. Put email collaboration on the agenda at a retreat with your suppliers.  Take an hour or two to dive deep.  Explore together the key goals of the collaborative relationship.  Question how email helps to advance these goals, and how it hinders them.   Explore practices that have been effective in similar situations.  You will be surprised by what you learn.

A Rapid Email Improvement (Kaizen) Event can result in increased trust among participants. Often tools other than email are identified for specific kinds of communication.   Email waste is identified and eliminated. The quality of email improves from idea sharing.  Plus the increased quality of email will reduce daily email maintenance time – something that everyone will enjoy.  Best of all, a shared commitment to better email habits paves the way for enhanced team outcomes ahead.