I like why. It helps me understand context. But in an increasingly email-laden world where everyone is “too busy” and emails are becoming more and more concise, the why is often the first thing to be omitted.

And this is a freaking travesty.

The “why” helps people understand why something is happening and the impact that it has. It gives context and, if it’s a request, it enables the recipients to use their own judgement and experience to assist above and beyond what’s originally being asked for (aka adding value). Not only that, but understanding the why makes people care more.

Examples

Here’s a few examples of how adding the why helps with context and understanding:

IT Maintenance Window (Understanding)

Too-busy:

Windows servers will be down for maintenance over the weekend. You won’t be able to access your files during the outage window.

 With the why:

In order to help keep our computer systems secure from outside threats (such as hacking) and to keep our systems more stable, we will be installing the latest software updates to our Windows servers over the weekend. You won’t be able to access your files during the outage window, but we will let you know once the outage is complete.

Storage Archive Request (Adding Value)

Too-busy:

Your project XYZ on the Moon has been inactive for 3 months. Please could you archive project directory XYZ?

With the why:

We’re working to free up infrequently used space on our storage systems to help us reduce our storage purchasing needs for the Moon over the next quarter.
We’ve identified that your project XYZ has been inactive for 3 months. Please could you archive project directory XYZ?

Now, armed with this extra information, I might then start to think about other project areas that could be archived in the future and queue those up. Doing so will help further optimise the storage space and save even more money (the added value)

Give your colleagues a chance, and include the why 🙂

Written by Phil Wiffen

Phil is an IT Professional working in Cambridge, England. He generally blogs about useful solutions that he comes across in his work/play.

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