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Back in April, the White House had the kind of Email Fail that makes you stop and think — “Wow,” you think, “That could have been REALLY bad.”

The situation was understandable. At the White House, they have a lot of staffers who have to weigh in on scheduling issues. I imagine many organizations employ a similar work flow — you send an email to one person, who comments and forwards to the next person, and so on and so on, until the agenda is finalized. Then a cleaned up email, without the comments and headers and entire conversation thread, is sent to the parties who it’s intended for.

It may be understandable, but it’s still a recipe for disaster. In the White House instance, the President’s daily agenda was sent to reporters, complete with the aforementioned comments, headers, and conversation thread. In this case, the extra data was harmless. But considering the audience, and the source, just imagine how very very bad this could have been.

So what are you options if this is the only way you know how to collaborate on email messages?

  • You could make mimeograph copies of your documents and hire a trained monkey to carry them around the office for everyone’s input. That would be both old school and entertaining.
  • You could hold a meeting to discuss the contents of every email before composing it. Who wouldn’t love a few more meetings every day?
  • You could chose a dedicated staff emailer, who would have complete autonomy to compose and send every email that goes out on behalf of your company. And then you could pay for their surgery when carpal tunnel syndrome leaves them claw-handed and disabled.

If none of those sound like great solutions, you might want to check out the really cool Email Center Pro feature called Collaborative Notes. These notes let you collaborate with your teammates internally, without the risk of your comments accidentally getting sent to email recipients.

When it comes to handling customer inquires, this can not only help you save face, but valuable time as well. Why get up and hunt down a colleague in the far reaches of your office when you can note an email “Jack, do we have this feature available yet?” and assign it to Jack. When he responds with a note of his own and reassigns it to you, you can include his input in your message (and take credit it for it too, as far as the customer is concerned!).  You can pass an email around the office this way, and each person’s note will be attributed to them by name, date, and time, building accountability into the collaborative process.

Trained monkeys might sound like more fun, but the mess they’d make of your office isn’t worth it. Consider collaborative notes instead.

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