[corrected spelling of the Nielsen Company amended; thanks Robert]

The Nielsen Company has just deleted the "Reply All" button on the computers of their 35,000 employees worldwide.

IORG (via TechCrunch) reports that the giant research company, fed up with the deluge of irrelevant email messages and the waste of time they cause,

has finally come up with an adequate solution to cluttered e-mail inboxes and inefficiency in office environments: [removing] the reply-to-all button from the messaging software.


I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand, Nielsen practically deserves a Nobel prize for figuring out how disable the Reply All function. I'm not sure if any software feature has ever created any more misery -- to say nothing of pure, unadulterated waste -- than this one. I can't even count the number of bloated inboxes I've seen engorged with this electronic equivalent of Ho-Hos. On the other hand, the unilateral move by the bigwigs smacks of the kind of command and control management that you so often see at large companies. It doesn't seem like there was any effort to incorporate employee feedback, much less the kind of A3 problem solving that defines a truly lean organization.

As a further demonstration of the, um, somewhat rareified analytical air at the top of the corporate food chain, Nielson's CIO claims that this move will "eliminate bureaucracy and inefficiency." While I'm pretty certain that it will help reduce some of the inefficiency stemming from poor email hygiene, if he thinks that it will "eliminate bureaucracy," I'm afraid that he understands electronic software far better than human software.

So: kudos to Nielson for recognizing a problem and taking a bold step. But I do wonder what other countermeasures they might have come up with had they engaged their employees in a true problem-solving, scientific approach to the issue. As Nathan Zeldes of IORG points out,

My own take on this is that the more aggravating RTAs - the ones that are a clear result of thoughtlessness - may be solved even if you don’t remove the button, but simply  move it on the toolbar away from REPLY. Even such a tiny change might eliminate some of the reflexive use of RTA when REPLY would suffice.

 What would you do?