This morning, as I sit on yet another flight, this time from Singapore to Hong Kong, it’s ever more apparent to me that far from video conferencing and other forms of communication taking the place of international travel, planes are fuller than ever with business travellers flying short distances for a schedule of meetings, which from my own straw poll over the past 18 months, are mostly internal to their own organisation. Interestingly, this current journey comes in place of a different one I would have made this week to the UK for a series of internal planning meetings! Travelling 8000 miles to also sit in a room with some of my esteemed colleagues whilst attractive in terms of the debate, discussion and networking brings to mind previous discussions around productivity.
So why do we continue this costly, inefficient in terms of time, and ecologically disastrous habit when the alternatives are increasingly viable in terms of their quality, of performance, price and attractiveness from the perspective of the user?
In a previous blog about the nature of the office and management control (https://bendehaldevang.com/2014/01/25/working-from-home-managements-last-bastion-of-control/), one of the comments raised was around the need to be able to read body language and avoid misunderstanding…which is clearly a good reason for the continued relentless drive around travel.
Another might be that for all the protest from travellers like myself for whom this constitutes a weekly grind, there are many that still relish the prospect…and I would certainly admit to some excitement when it comes to going to a new destination which offers different experiences.
And for others, the reality of decision making without some kind of corporate consensus which is perhaps only achieveable in face to face meetings is just not part of the corporate culture.
For my part, changing behaviour in this way is a challenge. Inevitably, one feels that somehow the nature of the contact is somehow diminished if it constitutes something less than a face to face conversation. However, the reality of the corporate challenge is that I and my colleagues need to embrace this shift. As with all behaviour change, the effort around proper communication where real understanding is the intent and driver with no compromise around this core purpose needs to be reemphasised and redoubled. Asking those additional questions, not being afraid to say “I don’t understand, can you please explain this again”, following good disciplines around note taking, agreed actions and next steps, and being diligent in the follow up are all part of the process where our clients and colleagues will trust in their abilities to communicate effectively thru other channels, and where ultimately the frequency of travel can gradually reduce.
As we move more and more in a globalised world, where work packets can be outsourced and offshored with no physical contact, where relationships are maintained across many time zones over many years with little or no direct contact, where even collective creative activities are possible across virtual channels, we also need to reeducate ourselves to achieve a similar shift.
….and as a wonderful consequence, less time will have to be spent passing through the antiquated processes of passport control, security checks and continual checking of the boarding pass!