A NEW KIND OF CHALLENGE
Since we began our business back in the '90s, writing's role in business has exploded:
- Writing vs. speech. Writing is now how we talk to one another—primarily in email, but also with instant messaging, texting, and so on.
- Email dominance. Wherever spoken media—like phone calls, meetings—have receded, they have mainly given way to email.
- Email victims. In large organizations, each individual's productivity now depends heavily on what others are doing in this medium. Our efficiency can be torpedoed by the junk showing up in our inbox—by everyone else's lousy messages.
As a result of all these changes, email may now be the single largest unaddressed productivity issue in decades:
- Outsized role. Email now consumes at least one third—and as much as one half—of each workday.
- Real money. What this means is that in most companies, at least one third of payroll is now financing email activity.
- No leadership. Few companies have established any standards at all for email's proper use.
So everyday writing practices now have a huge effect on productivity. But traditional writing instruction is of little help; it focuses on individual skills—which may suit academic classrooms but makes little sense in today's organizations. Our view of this challenge is twofold:
- Writing performance and email productivity will not improve without thoughtfully crafted email standards.
- To have any impact, the standards must be shared throughout the organization.
In the language of Email Excellence: Our productivity with email is plainly a community challenge. It will yield only to community solutions.
How we’re different
We are not typical writing instructors; we're students of business. We may love a well-crafted sentence, appreciate the active voice, and cringe at grammar errors, but we have no illusion that academic standards are the cure for what's currently ailing business.
Also, our approaches and values have been shaped by a key experience—that of seeing our writing programs, at one company after another, become required training for all employees. In each of these companies, we have seen firsthand the impact on a large organization of implementing, over just a few weeks' time, clear writing standards and a shared toolkit of best practices.
We're now devoted to our vision of entire departments and even entire companies raising the bar, performing at never-before-seen levels of efficiency and professionalism. We'd like to be a catalyst for effecting this change.