Morning. Well not for most people, it is about 05:30 in Heathrow Terminal 4. Currently writing this in the Costa Coffee where it is customary to have breakfast before the flight. Even though we board at 06:00, the day started at 04:00 just to get here.

Oh, while I’m not intending to write about the airport per se, if anyone from KLM is reading this, can you please do something about the queuing so that those of us who use your online check-in reap the benefits by letting us drop our bags and get to security without having to queue for the normal desks. It’s not helping your staff or the passengers and only seems to have started happening today. I guess I’ll see if this is a permanent thing soon enough.

So why am I here ? Well every 2 weeks or thereabouts, I head to Amsterdam to see people in our head office and also our “customers” who are also head-quartered in Amsterdam. The difference, is that apart from being the first trip of 2008, is that I’ll be doing this all on my own this year as my boss has moved on to bigger and better things. I’ve suddenly noticed that it all gets thrown in sharp relief when it’s you who stops the buck.

As I am now on my own, some things have changed. Some because due to the lack of manpower I have to delegate or automate, and some because there are new methods or changes in the environment.

One thing that will not change is the need for face to face contact when building relationships. Some people reading this might ask why on earth I’m taking the plane over when I could:


I haven’t listed the methods in order of preference (if I did, I think most people would list Video Conferencing very low down the order). The fact is I do use all of these methods, but the general thing is that people work better if they’ve met someone in real life. It’s almost like proving to yourself that they exist, and consequently that they “matter”.

That sounds bad, what I mean is that it’s hard to relate to a voice, or a set of words, when you need to work with someone. That’s not to say it can’t work. Many people will probably cite open-source projects as examples of large groups of people who don’t meet. Others might point to Facebook and suggest that you can be friends with people you have never met, much like “penpals” used to be. Personally I’d have to question the equivalence of “electronic” friendships with friendships in the real world, but I’m not everyone, and it isn’t to say there aren’t positive examples of groups who benefit from this.

The odd thing is though, that in that list above, the one thing that people do seem to prefer next to face-to-face is the Phone. Why not video conferencing ? We pick up about 80% of any conversation from visual cues given by the person we’re speaking to, but yet, we prefer the phone. It also strikes me that this sometimes reflected in the resurgence of Radio, we like things we can hear, sometimes over audio-visual mediums. This is something I’ll probably return to later.

The fact is when you work with people there are a whole set of rules that govern that relationship, and those help, but ultimately the process is the same as working with anyone; it really helps when you can walk up and talk to them in the same room. 

Anyway, time to board…