For organizations, mobile voice has begun to emerge as the default means of communication. Why should I try to call you on your office extension when the probability of reaching you is much higher if I call your cell? Yes, there's the benefit of enhanced co-worker access, but the cost to the organization is seen in bloated cell-service budgets. More sinister, easy access promotes an interrupt-driven work style that seldom results in increased productivity.
While many people are still prisoners of their cell phones, norms for productive use of mobile telephony are slowly emerging. Caller ID helps a lot, as does the off switch. However, mobile data introduces new dilemmas. Organizations spend millions on mobile e-mail, often without fully considering the implications. Worse, mobile e-mail is often rolled out first to senior managers, presumably because their timely communication has higher organizational value. Unfortunately, crackberry addiction does not discriminate. While only one in 20 e-mails may be worthy of immediate attention, the person strung out on mobile e-mail is distracted by almost every one. We used to be chained to desktop e-mail. Now, we're hooked on mobile e-mail.
Disciplined professionals eventually learn that keeping up with mobile e-mail is a lost cause. Yes, responsiveness is highly valued, but being too responsive also has a cost. Decisions that used to be made at a relatively low, and often appropriate, level of the organization are now escalated to more senior people using mobile e-mail, and these decisions are sometimes escalated to groups of e-mail recipients, wasting even more time.
We Won't Call You
We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We're seduced by the power of mobility, by the elegance of mobile technology. We search for ways to make communication more transparent, integrating systems more effectively and enhancing functionality--most recently through the use of presence capabilities and location awareness. Unfortunately, we don't spend enough time thinking about how to best leverage those technologies in an interrupt-driven culture.