Emails are the necessary evil of our modern organizations. It’s insane how much precious time is wasted writing and reading unstructured emails. They are often too long and can even be a complete waste of time. There is a solution which can save your team time and keep your sanity in-check. The acronym “BLIND” describes an email structure used by military staffs to effectively communicate to leadership. Use this structure and be amazed at the amount of time you’ll save with the increased effectiveness of emails.
BL = Bottom Line. This is the first thing that gets communicated. It should be at the very top of the page, or you can put it in the message subject line. Refine your key point to one or two sentences. What would say to your manager if you were passing each other in the hall and couldn’t stop to talk? For example:
I = Impact. After the main point has been communicated, assess the impact of the key point. This section answers why the person would care about the issue. If you can’t come up with an impact, the email might not be worth sending. Impact statements should be less than two sentences.
N = Next Steps. This step is crucial because it forces the development of a plan of action. Articulating a next step will foster an action-oriented culture. It won’t always be the best course of action but at least it’s a place to start! Try and keep this section shorter than a paragraph. If the next step is a series of actions, then bullets points are a great way to lay out the plan. Below are some examples.
D = Details. At this point you have given the recipient all the critical information in the communication and can let loose on relevant details. This typically involves a background, a more detailed explanation of the problem, and maybe some potential risks. It is now up to the reader to determine if they want to dive deeper. Try to provide the right amount of information so the email can be forwarded up the chain without the need to add more information. This section should also concise, to the point, and as short as possible.
This format allows managers to quickly forward information to executive leaders. It doesn't require reformatting to pull out important information because it's already done. Another key benefit is its ability to reduce email clutter. How many times has a project risk become a non-issue after some reflection? This email format will flush out key information and save you the embarrassment of sending out a “never mind” email.
If you feel like your team can be more effective with its emails, give this format a shot. Office life is busy and leaders get more emails than they can read in a given day. BLIND emails allow leaders to get the point of the email, and make the decision to flag or discard while scanning their phone between meetings. It’s about time we do something about our inbox madness, and this is a step in the right direction.