If you know me at all, you know that I can’t be doing with kicking someone while their down.
But – what to say?
This Australian lawyer who says he only reads emails after they’ve been printed out for him?
Where to start? (Shakes head, sadly.)
If you don’t know, a month ago there was quite a kerfuffle in Australia and around the world in the Twittersphere about Dyson Heydon, a well-respected senior member of the Australian judiciary.
People were a bit thrown by the admission that he can’t cope with the modern world – that he claims to be “incapable of sending or receiving” electronic messages, and his email is handled by one of his assistants.
Well, ok. It’s not really going to help very much to join in some of the joshing that Heydon’s been getting about all this.
And, to be honest, I don’t think there’s any secret that people of a certain age genuinely struggle with the digital age. Equally, we all know of execs who refuse to join in the office revolution, and who don’t see it as good use of their time to use email and who employ PAs to act as a filter.
Given what I said last time, in July, when I discussed the way email’s becoming something of an out of control monster you might expect me to have some sympathy for Heydon.
And, I do – to some extent.
What worries me is how grossly inefficient his way of working sounds, especially in the context of his profession – the law.
The law is all about documents, sharing and storing of information, the creation of a back and forth information flow – an awful lot of which is now done digitally.
Breaking the chain by stepping out into paper like this wastes time and risks vital data ending up on paper and not available to all those who need it.
For me, the ‘crime’ in all this, if there is one, is that powerful and talented people like Heydon, who we need in our business processes, are making it harder for the rest of us.
Silence in court!
My genuine recommendation for a solution to this scenario is to use the PA better.
Human expertise absolutely has a role here. There’s a very important place, at the top of many organisations, for a clever assistant who can negotiate both worlds – the paper and the digital.
Get such people to assess and manage your information flow – to filter out only what you really need to act on.
But don’t take them out of the digital. Communicate with them what needs to be done in ways that keep inside the digital flow.
Just printing a pile of paper and expecting some scribbled comments on it isn’t the best way of working with all that important content – and isn’t going to cut it in the modern age.
So my ‘verdict’ on the judge’s case is this: I’ll let you off on not being keen on computers, but I’m giving you a strict warning about poor use of your staff’s time.
Take the defendant down!
Howard Frear is Sales and Marketing Director at EASY Software UK