Cheryl GIllan has announced that the Welsh Office is to scrap first class rail travel for all staff, however senior. If the other departments of state follow suit the savings in cost and time should not be under-estimated – especially as resistance to teleconferencing falls away. One of the largest and leakiest employers of officials currently entitled to first class travel could gain as much as 10% extra time from its middle management and cut their travel and subsistance costs by 50% if its monday morning reviews in London were to be on-line.
I am not an unalloyed fan of teleconferencing but have worked in geographically dispersed organisations since 1973. Over that period I have used a wide variety of services. Over time they have become cheaper and easier to use. Many are now perfectly adequate for routine weekly and monthly reviews – albeit not for relationship-building or turning problems into opportunities. The best run organisation in which I have ever worked held two management conferences a year, one in the UK, one hosted by an operating unit. In addition all the members of the UK “team” visited each operating unit at least once a year, to meet the key local staff and be seen by all. In between we used one of the pre-Internet time-sharing services – and I only travelled first class when accompanying a Main Board Director.
Indeed, except when working in the public sector, I have almost never travelled first class. On one of the rare occasions I did, expecting peace and quiet to prepare for a tricky meeting, I found my self surrounded by chattering delegates on their way to a public sector conference. I had to go into second class for the peace and quiet I needed.