In the United States, it is a national holiday: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Inspired by Barack and Michelle Obama, many individuals and organizations will perform community service in food banks, shelters, and other places of need. When I finish this post, I will spend my day with elderly and sick friends. It is a day of connection and community.
Wherever we are, a simple but essential service we can perform for our business community is to avoid unnecessary Reply to All email. Reply to All is frequently a meaningless, time-wasting sham of connection that shuts down productivity and gluts email servers. Last week the Associated Press reported on a flood of sudden email replies at the US State Department ("Reply-all e-mail storm hits State Department") that virtually crippled communications there.
Although not focused on the sick and needy, avoiding Reply to All would indeed be a service. In every Email Intelligence class I lead, participants rant about the senseless, aggravating email they receive–much of it Replies to All.
When should we Reply to All? I answered that question in "Reply to All: Do They Need It?" But we can also look to the days before email, when people sent photocopies of memos and letters through interoffice mail. Each copy had to be printed, placed in an envelope, and addressed. So here's a guide: If you had no email, would you copy the message, put it in an interoffice envelope, address the envelope, and drop it in your outbox for pickup? If the copied message would not be worth the effort to send that way to each recipient, don't send it Reply to All.
If you have other ideas about reducing Reply to All email, please share them. The State Department (see above) is threatening unspecified "disciplinary action" for those who abuse Reply to All.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Read my "Pursue Peace" entry for ideas on improving the world one message at a time.