Tuesday, 12 November 2013
Beware the curse of Reply all-itis
A few weeks ago I was invited to address a nearby Conservative Association on 'Improving Communications'. For some reason there was an internal debate about which part of the agenda I should speak under. The Chairman thought I was a "guest speaker" and should be invited to speak at the end where the MP would usually be. The Deputy Chairman Political disagreed; he thought my presentation was political / training and I should be half way through the agenda, tagged onto his bit.
The ensuing discussion was conducted using "reply to all" facility, ensuring that everyone on the Executive Council mailing list was involved, including me (as they had sent the draft agenda to me by email too). The debate clearly exposed a divide in the ranks. The traditional members thought I should be awarded the honour of speaking after formal business, in recognition of my 'status'! The more progressive members viewed my contribution as technical, and as such should be in the political section of the agenda. I watched (and read) with amusement as both sides battered and contradicted each other with their own interpretations of rules and protocol.
After four days and approaching 70 emails, someone suggested, "Why doesn't the Chairman phone him and ask him when he would prefer to speak?" A few hours later, my phone rang, and the Chairman asked that very question. I replied that, not being one for protocol, I would be happy to speak during the meeting as part of the DC Political report, but I really didn't mind one way or the other.
After an hour another email arrived, this time from the Chairman. "Dear All, As suggested I have spoken to Andrew who said he would prefer to speak at the end, so we should respect his wishes."
To this day I never let on - but I know the Chairman reads my blog and I hope his toes are curling with shame. Be sure your sins will find you out!