Carbon Copy. Cc: “-itis” — An e-mail crisis

Monday. E-mail.

Tuesday. More e-mail.

Wednesday. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Vacations. Holidays. Sick days.

Births, funerals, weddings.

E-mail waits for no one. It is constant and ever growing.

And, it isn’t going to stop anytime soon, unless you are at your own funeral (it’s true, morbid as it may sound).

There are tons of articles out there on how to deal with your Inbox. This is not that article.

It is about dealing with your cc:‘s. That is, Carbon Copy, without the carbon.

(As an aside, maybe if we once again had to fill out forms by hand in duplicate or triplicate people might stop cc:‘ing so many other people.)

Cc:, and it’s lesser used brethren, Bcc:, have interesting lives (I’m going to use Cc: vs cc: as this is how it typically appears in the mail header). There is so much written on the etiquette of the Cc: and Bcc: but in terms of Smart Sales Operations and selling, I want to take another angle: inefficiency.

For the sake of the point, I’m only going to focus on a few examples. Your mileage may vary.

First inefficient use of Cc:    Including people’s management for escalation from the start.

Let’s look at this from a content origination point-of-view. When your e-mail was composed, what was the intent? A call to action? Looking for a result or information? And what was the timeline in which the request was sent? Did you send it to someone Monday and expect an answer by Monday evening–placing the ever popular exclamation point on the e-mail indicating High Priority for your e-mail? And you know (or hope) if your original recipient sees your e-mail, he or she will hop to it because you put High Priority on it.

So, at the end of Monday, you haven’t received a response, and you forward the original message to the original recipient, and Cc: his or her boss, and maybe another party which you think might provide leverage in getting your response. Now you’ve let loose the fecal storm and those cc:’d chime in and add their exclamation points and people start running around with their hair on fire because you wanted that answer by the end of Monday…and you’ve effectively filled your Inbox by Monday evening with only one problem you escalated, which may or may not even really be a problem.

Scenario two:     You have an issue or need to disperse information which you believe should be addressed by more than one person, so you fire up a New Message, add a bunch of recipients in the To: line, then add some fringe people in the Cc: line because you feel they should be aware of this. Then you Bcc: yourself and a friend on the project so you can prove you took action and sent an e-mail.

Results for Scenario Uno:  Congratulations! You’ve just exponentially increased your workload without solving your problem. You’ve included others whom you have to follow up with and those which you have to report the resolution of the problem to. You have several more days of mopping and cleaning to do before you finally put this to bed. Uhmmm, quick question, did you get your result?

Results for Scenario Dos: Those in the Cc: line are your CYA people, and they have other things to worry about than your e-mail and your hiney. Your Bcc: buddy can go rogue with your e-mail, create a new thread and undermine anything you thought you were doing. Yeah, that’s right, your “friend” forwards the Bcc: to others and a new poo cyclone arises from a thread which takes on a life of it’s own.

What is the point? E-mail is asynchronous communication. Meaning that unlike a conversation, it DOES NOT happen in real time. It is dependent upon sending and receiving messages, and due to that one fact, is VERY inefficient in getting things done quickly. But, it is VERY efficient in quickly transmitting information that is not time sensitive to someone.

Let me give you a thought experiment: Imagine you are a soldier on the front line. Once in the field, your only method of communication between you and your commanding officer is e-mail. Every day, your unit starts with a morning meeting to discuss objectives and then go out into the field for some killin’. So today, after you have white boarded the morning’s attack with everyone in your platoon, you head out for some hand-to-hand or other form of violence. Whatever type of violence it is (i.e. bombs, bullets or brutes), your attention will be occupied fighting for your life. Your first battle starts at 8:00AM (because violence is prompt) and as your platoon gets pounded, your CO sends a blanket e-mail at 8:10AM changing the strategy. Some of those fellow soldiers not currently occupied (aka, fighting for their life at that moment) and who hear the melodious ‘ding’ check their e-mail. For some, the ding and the pause to check creates the moment’s distraction that allows for them to be overtaken (a euphemism), and for others, they check their e-mail and immediately proceed with the new orders. For you, engaged in heavy artillery and mortar fire, you aren’t able to check you e-mail until several hours later as the enemy takes siesta and resupplies and you find the rest of your platoon has moved.

So tell me, how do you think the unit or platoon fared? Do you think they were as effective as soldiers taking direct orders verbally?

If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan then the opening scene shows how battle is comprised of infinite chaos. But people are constantly communicating with each other directly. “Do this” “Did you check that?” “Go over there” “Look over here”. Direct communication.

Don’t hide behind a facade. Use the Cc: in e-mail as it was intended: to transmit information to parties who might have a stake in something or need to be aware of a situation. Don’t use it for personal CYA, showing management how late you are staying at the office, or hoping that your carpet bombing approach to addressing will turn over what you’re looking for.

And with that, I leave you to go back to your bad e-mail habits.

Efficiency Uber Alles!

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at

PS The Infrastructure Guy  and Smart Sales Operations are Trademarks of Thinks, Inc.