A Better Way To Work TimeBack Management

About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

TIMEBACK BLOG Syndicate content

And the Nobel Prize for efficiency goes to. . . Nielsen!

Posted February 2, 2009 @ 6:57 PM

 [corrected spelling of the Nielsen Company amended; thanks Robert]

The Nielsen Company has just deleted the "Reply All" button on the computers of their 35,000 employees worldwide.

IORG (via TechCrunch) reports that the giant research company, fed up with the deluge of irrelevant email messages and the waste of time they cause,

has finally come up with an adequate solution to cluttered e-mail inboxes and inefficiency in office environments: [removing] the reply-to-all button from the messaging software.


I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand, Nielsen practically deserves a Nobel prize for figuring out how disable the Reply All function. I'm not sure if any software feature has ever created any more misery -- to say nothing of pure, unadulterated waste -- than this one. I can't even count the number of bloated inboxes I've seen engorged with this electronic equivalent of Ho-Hos. On the other hand, the unilateral move by the bigwigs smacks of the kind of command and control management that you so often see at large companies. It doesn't seem like there was any effort to incorporate employee feedback, much less the kind of A3 problem solving that defines a truly lean organization.

As a further demonstration of the, um, somewhat rareified analytical air at the top of the corporate food chain, Nielson's CIO claims that this move will "eliminate bureaucracy and inefficiency." While I'm pretty certain that it will help reduce some of the inefficiency stemming from poor email hygiene, if he thinks that it will "eliminate bureaucracy," I'm afraid that he understands electronic software far better than human software.

So: kudos to Nielson for recognizing a problem and taking a bold step. But I do wonder what other countermeasures they might have come up with had they engaged their employees in a true problem-solving, scientific approach to the issue. As Nathan Zeldes of IORG points out,

My own take on this is that the more aggravating RTAs - the ones that are a clear result of thoughtlessness - may be solved even if you don’t remove the button, but simply  move it on the toolbar away from REPLY. Even such a tiny change might eliminate some of the reflexive use of RTA when REPLY would suffice.

 What would you do?

very well deserved indeed

very well deserved indeed i'v been impressed with this person since i was in testking 642-481 certification

The company is Nielsen not Nielson

Really interesting information on your page i like the stuff on your pages.

This opens up a new horizon of opportunity.


Thanks for your comment re: the RTA button. (I'm honored that you're reading my blog!) I'm also glad to see that it's not only huge organizations that are taking the initiative to reduce the plague of unnecessary input.

I do wonder if this move will simply lead to people creating huge group mailing lists, with the result that the problem will continue.

Social bookmarking, folksonomies

I spoke to you in class about these two areas They represent where technology is moving. Try these links.

. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x66lV7GOcNU
. http://delicious.com/

PS I am enjoying your class.

More on moving the RTA button

After posting the idea of moving the Reply to All button away from Reply, I was told by a friend that the small company he works in had done exactly that, with positive results!

Preventing RTA

My company has also lost the "Reply to All" button. It's grayed out so you can't accidentally press, but if you do ctrl+shift+R you can, in fact reply to all.
It just makes the feature far more deliberate.

The company is Nielsen not Nielson

The company is Nielsen not Nielson. You have it right in the first line, but not in the title nor in the rest of the article.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

  Captcha Image: you will need to recognize the text in it.
Please type in the letters/numbers that are shown in the image above.