Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting here that all face to face meetings are no longer required, that would be as ridiculous as making a decision that all face to face training is no longer required, no this is the same sort of decision that we make for blending our learning. Welcome to the era of eManagement and Blended Management and its use around elearning.
Now the observant amongst you will already note that I work for Kineo Pacific in New Zealand (mostly) and Australia (see above). I'm physically based in Albany on the North Shore of Auckland. When I was asked about this role and interviewed it was done remotely via a Skype interview as the rest of the organisation was based in Wellington. Some of you may have already experienced this and if not you may want to add it to your tools, some of you use it as an everyday tool and some probably believe it can't be effective for something like an interview (but if you're still reading there's hope). During the interview the CEO was asking me questions about why they should employ someone from a different geographical location to manage stuff around their learning technologies. My answer at the time was around walking the walk, how we expect clients to work in the cloud, how we share and work with clients remotely on learning systems that do the same and yet we hang on to the old ideals of everyone working in the same office under close supervision (I may never wear a tie again!). Not only do I stand by that (hopefully they do too) but it goes further, the modern world has never been smaller, this is all to do with the way we communicate; if we insist on management being done the way it was when the world was bigger then expect it to be a bigger task that costs more and is probably less effective.
Just like elearning eManagement is not primarily about financial rewards (but yes, I'm aware most of you still have to sell it that way), but about using the right tools to achieve the tasks.. It's more about effectiveness than efficiency believe it or not. If you're trying to set up a meeting between more than two or three people it can seem to take for ever to get a date and time agreed even in the same geographical location. What usually happens is people get excluded or the meeting gets set back to a mutually acceptable date. This has two immediate effects; firstly people miss out entirely (minutes eventually follow for what they're worth) and secondly the time frames are not dictated by needs but by simple logistics, in essence you lose the ability to control the pace of your project or you build project with lengthy gaps in for just this reason. For me this is the breeding ground for inefficiency and disengagement. The great thing about cloud based meeting tools and spaces is the ability to not only host them remotely but that no-one need miss out; there are several tools with the options to record the meeting or webinar and record questions and shared white spaces.
For training I also find that we get far more focused in a webinar than in a 4-6 hour training day (you can do 8 if you want..). Human attention span is well documented as being short (would you read this blog if it were 10 pages long?) and a 60-90 minute web training session can work really well to cover a few topics. Like your face to face sessions and your elearning it doesn't have to be all push either, you can use the questions and polls effectively and even get participants doing things and use linkages between the sessions (yay, homework again!).
Again, I don't want to replace the face to face, there are times we need to meet people and it's great to meet new people and understand a bit more about them, it's just not necessary all the time. I'm now on the plane to Wellington to run a training session, Monday I'm running a scoping exercise in Brisbane and the following week presenting at a conference back in Wellington and then for another large meeting. Some of that is necessary and some of it truly isn't, but I'm customer focused and if the client really wants to do everything this way, then I usually will. My point here is that most of the time, this is because they don't really think about alternatives and reach for old solutions to modern problems. Think about the reasons why we use elearning; not just the efficiency, but things like consistency, ease of access to information, engagement, immersion and interaction, then apply these ideals to your management and see whether actually that meeting could be done virtually or whether or not it's necessary at all. I love it when clients embrace the cloud tools, we share things in the virtual space (like editing a document or graphic between us without posting or even emailing it) or jumping quickly on to the same system to demonstrate where things can be improved; again it's about the best way of working.
I'll leave you with this final thought as my plane journey is near the end, eManagement and elearning are kindred spirits and all about the way we live and work today. You may not have to adopt either right now, but at some point you will and it will likely be for wrong reason then (money). If you're an early adopter here you have a much greater chance to shape the future and learn (yay!) along the way. As always balance is the key; please don't ignore the person next to you the rest of the day and communicate only by IM, and no Milo isn't buying in to this stuff either!
As always everything here is entirely my opinion and I reserve the right to be way off base as required. I'd love to hear from you either by direct response to this blog, email, LinkedIn or Twitter.. Even face to face of course!