The following could be an e-mail (or Instant Message) exchange between Mary and Fred, collaborating on a project:

10:25 – Mary: We need to finalize the budget for the Widget account
10:37 – Fred: I agree.
10:43 – Mary: Do we have all estimates, including the printing costs?
10:57 – Fred: The printing cost is in.
11:08 – Mary: So do we have everything? Can we complete the budget?
11:17 – Fred: Looks like we have all the external cost estimates in hand.
11:26 – Mary: SO CAN WE FINALIZE THE BUDGET ALREADY??

At 11:29, Fred stands up and walks to Mary’s office (right next door to his). In 3 minutes they complete the conversation (which went nowhere in over an hour) and Mary has what she needs to know.

An exaggeration? Perhaps, but we’ve all seen way too many lengthy email conversations dragged out over days or weeks, when a simple phone call (or a walk down the hall) would have short-circuited the whole thing. We’ve become so conditioned to electronic forms of communication that we forget how effective a simple two way voice conversation can be, particularly in a time-sensitive business situation.

Mark’s 4th rule of business communication: Always consider voice communication first, instead of last.