Do "Reply All" Deterrents Make Your Company Dumber?

Reply all. We so often do it, and it just fills up other people’s inboxes. After seeing this video on Zappos and realizing that like so many other companies we had an email problem too, “the pumpkin” was instituted. The concept was simple: put a dollar in if you get called out for an unnecessary reply all.

During the CEO swap with Rand Fishkin (view the video here) he constantly racked up pumpkin points. On purpose. He replied all like a mofo!! He hated our rule, and as such broke it often.

Rand was accustomed to the Moz way, which having been their CEO for a week, is to reply all regularly and to use your own discretion. But you’ll never get a cubicle or a pumpkin party at Moz. Well, Team Happy might come by with coloring pages or beer, but that’s it. And who doesn’t want that kind of cube party?

It’s been some time since the swap but the lessons keep pouring in, and today’s lesson is “Death to the Pumpkin.

Rand, you were right, but let me tell you what it took for SEER to realize that the time had finally come to smash the pumpkin.

Why the pumpkin HAD to die to keep SEER’s culture of learning

Recently someone shared something with me and I replied telling him how insightful it was and so to reply all, then I would respond. He “replied all” and received a message from the pumpkin keeper saying “you break the rules, you put a dollar in the pumpkin.” So here was an example where I, as the company Founder, saw something that I thought we could all learn something from. However, the pumpkin keeper disagreed since we weren’t on the same page on this being a “valuable message,” so the pumpkin keeper sent the message above back to this individual.

He then brought this to his team lead, and thank god Adam Melson didn’t just respond by saying “it’s process.” Instead he challenged the process completely and asked “why,” as he knew that it was time to kill this practice.

Long-term impact

The long term impact of restrictive messaging in your company is that people are afraid to reply all and sometimes great ideas don’t get fully communicated through the organization. The team learns less, your clients learn less, and your agency gets slower and less cutting edge.

What I’m doing now

First, I am UNDOING years of pumpkin shushing. So many people email me for things and I have to tell them to reply all so that we can all learn from the answer. As a fast growing company, strategic conversations that happen between 2-3 people that aren’t more inclusive usually result in strategy not being communicated throughout the organization.

Second, it goes back to the individual. People need to know when no one else is going to get value from a message and curb appropriately. They also need to know how to handle their own inbox better by using filters or whatever they need to do.

Third, being the CEO of Moz meant managing Rand’s inbox and all the flurry of messages that come in from Moz groups like Team Happy, LBGT, Early Morning Tech (someone’s gotta support the Europe and east coast clients), Executive Team,  Help Desk, Technical issues, and the list goes on and on.  This is what I recently implemented at SEER. More groups, and within those groups you can choose how often you want to get emails, if at all. Thank you Rand!

There are options that let you not receive all e-mails (if you can’t handle it) such as daily digest, 25 message digest mode, and web only. Google even tells you about how much to expect from each one.

We’ll see how it goes. I hope more people on our team use the Google Groups feature in the future. I’d love to see people take the lead on this and make groups for technical SEO, link builders, office hacks, etc. Then we’ll be able to see all of these groups and choose to join the ones that are of interest, reply all away, and keep learning from one another, leveling up, and getting better every day!