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Email Overload at the White House

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Big political news was found out from the previous administration. Computer technicians found 22 million lost emails from the Bush White House.

The Associated Press provided the following report:

The two private groups — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive — said Monday they were settling the lawsuits they filed against the Executive Office of the President in 2007.

It will be years before the public sees any of the recovered e-mails because they will now go through the National Archives’ process for releasing presidential and agency records. Presidential records of the Bush administration won’t be available until 2014 at the earliest.

The tally of missing e-mails, the additional searches and the settlement are the latest development in a controversy surrounding the failure by the Bush White House to install a properly working electronic record keeping system.

The two private organizations say there is not yet a final count on the extent of missing White House e-mail and there may never be a complete tally.

There’s a great deal of productivity and workflow issues to discuss from this story. We have already discussed the impacts of disorganization and corporate productivity. We’ve covered extreme email management techniques and provided email productivity advice. We’ve highlighted government productivity failure and business consulting failure. For AccelaWork, lost emails and broken processes are old news.

email overload

© Flickr user MiiiSH

Instead, let’s look at the raw numbers. The AP reported a recovery of an additional 22 million emails spread over 94 days. It’s tough to get an accurate count of “White House staff”, but the Washington Post pegs the 2007 headcount at 442. Let’s put those numbers together:

22,000,000 emails / 94 days / 442 staffers ˜ 530 emails per day

At a conservative estimate of a 9 hour work day, that’s approximately 58 emails per person per hour, or nearly one every minute. This is untenable. How do you steer the fate of a country when you have to process or produce a message every minute?

The figures above are based on limited research and are not highly accurate. But even if they are off by 25% or 50%, it’s amazing the White House can accomplish anything at all. The constant stream of emails surely limit individual productivity. If the most important office in the country is constantly battling email, it’s likely that you too struggle against the inbox.

AccelaWork does not believe that email is the key problem of the modern organization. Rather, it is a symptom of the real problem: lack of stakeholder authority and responsibility. Change the way your office operates. Contact our Indiana consultants today.

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  • http://infoexcellence.com Bill Kirwin

    Not sure this analysis is accurate. Does this account for CCs and distribution lists. One email can generate dozens of others. Our data at Cohesive Knowledge Solutions show that the average email goes to 3 recipients.

    BK

  • http://www.accelawork.com rslaughter

    Thanks for the comment.

    Obviously it’s impossible to know how to divide those 22,000,000 emails up among all of the people who worked in the Bush Administration. The point is that there’s a tremendous quantity of messages being shuffled back and forth, and that each of these messages likely represent an interruption that make it difficult for anyone to concentrate.