Thursday, July 1, 2004

The evolution of memo making

Business Times p.B1
Thursday, July 1, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
The evolution of memo making

TIME was when you needed to talk to somebody, you do it face-to-face. It only costs you time.

Then, when you had to put your memo in long handwriting, you only prepare one for your one and only recipient and one for your file. You choose your recipient very carefully. Consider the cost of your time, one scroll, gum eraser and some ink.

Then, when you had the manual typewriter, you prepared one original and 2 to 4 carbon copies. Other than the major recipient, you choose 2 to 4 others, who may not even know the real intent of your memo. One small mistake in typing and you had to redo the whole memo. Also, you didn’t want to send a memo with eraser smudges. You used about 20 bond papers for a one-page memo, carbon papers and typewriter ribbon, filing cabinet, office space, staff and executive time. Or when you spotted a mistake and asked the typist to retype the whole memo, your costs doubled.

Then came the electric typewriter and liquid or tape paper eraser and you prepare more copies and send to more recipients who don’t know why they receive the copy. They reply and you reply and they reply and you reply, and so on and so forth.

You use about 50 bond papers, carbon papers, liquid paper eraser, printer ribbon and electricity, bigger table, in-and-out box, more filing cabinets, bigger office space, not to mention your time and staff time.

Then came the stencil printer and you produce a lot more copies and send to as many recipients. You spend bond papers, stencil, ink, the stencil machine, electricity, bigger table, bigger in/out box, more filing cabinets, bigger office space, electricity, staff time and your precious, precious time. You needed to hire a stencil operator and allocated a budget for repair and maintenance.

Then came the electric typewriter with memory and you became more emboldened to prepare even more copies and send to even more recipients. Imagine the resources required.

Then came the personal computer and copying machine and you had a feast making voluminous copies of your memo and send to many more recipients. Then, you also went into a copying frenzy and make copies of everything. You thought it was cheap.

Now we have the e-mail that allow us to send just about any written thing or graphics to thousands of recipients using a short simple process. All of the above costs plus lots of wasted executive and staff time retrieving, reading and replying to all e-mails.

1. Who should receive your memo?
2. How and when do you want your recipients to respond to your message?
3. Do you really need to prepare and send that memo? Won’t a simple phone call or a short hop to the next office/cubicle have the same, if not better, impact?

At the ASTD 2004 Conference and Exhibition, authors Sheila Campbell and Merianne Liteman say, “you know something’s not right in your company. How do you even begin the challenging process of figuring out what you’re doing right so you could build on that, and what you’re doing wrong so you can get rid of the junk that’s bogging you down?”

They mentioned that the management guru Peter Drucker “advises companies to embrace a policy of Organized Abandonment—to put every product, every service, every process, every market, every distribution channel, every customer, and end-use on trial for its life.”

Let’s discuss how to go on an Abandonment Retreat with tips from the book, Retreats that Work by Campbell and Liteman.

Moje, the president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., assists companies in their strategic thinking and planning, learning and innovation and HR, and organization development initiatives. Please send your feedback to

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