What We Have Here, Folks, is a Failure to Communicate.
Technology should supplement good team management, not replace it.
Good magazines are known to foster great storytelling. Whether it’s uncovering an untold tale, profiling individuals who are far from the mainstream spotlight, or raising the collective consciousness of an issue that affects the lives of our readers, magazines, as Mark Twain might have said, “spin a yarn” like no other medium.
Most stand-alone city and regional magazines are relatively small organizations which are always looking for technological assists to increase efficiency and leverage often-overleveraged human resources.
We can’t hide our exuberance when one system talks to the next and does data dumps at the push of a button, in sequence when files are uploaded, downloaded, and sideloaded. It indeed saves steps, time and effort—all at the detriment of basic communication.
Now, before anyone gets the notion I want to bring back Gutenberg’s press and hot lead type trays, let me say that I am a huge fan of technology and have brought whatever appears to make good financial sense into my company. So we have a system where the finance people have no need to talk with production, where sales can communicate with clients remotely, and editors and art directors communicate via cloud like deities with their freelance writers and artists. I have to think that this “keyboard management strategy” has crept a bit too far into the fundamentals of basic communication, commerce and our companies.
Too often I observe the “hot potato move” — discover a problem that’s not yours, send an email and wait for someone else to resolve. Have an employee that perhaps needs coaching or counseling? Send an email to document and protect oneself. There is a mentality that if we are working so hard to put technology in place that deters human interaction, that everything is out the window with the bath water.
We have worked hard to cut down on email hell, while leveraging technology where we can. We encourage impromptu small meetings face-to-face. I personally intervene on long languishing email discussions that fill up inboxes on occasion, encouraging a delay until a planned meeting. Sometimes, I ask to opt out as a cc to an email chain because it is irrelevant, and I suspect my participation adds legitimacy to the unnecessary back-and-forth. But having a hard day managing people by sending emails is baffling to me. Sending rudimentary emails to coworkers who are sitting feet away is ludicrous.
Communicating with clients in a virtual cloud manager ad nauseum fosters nothing, in my opinion, but distrust.
Dealing with problems requires a level of focused communication and rationale which, to my best knowledge, Microsoft and Apple have yet to replicate.