Life on the plane: Alexei Kasimov on how to plan a business trip and effectively use working time away from the office
In 2018 alone, Alexei Kasimov, Operations Director of Polymer Isolation, spent 153 days on business trips. Each month, he leaves Moscow several times to meet with partners or check the work at one of the 8 XPS Technonikol factories and solve strategic tasks. Each trip is unique: it can be interesting, promise good prospects or, conversely, increase the level of cortisol in the blood when it is necessary to solve complex and unpleasant tasks. Alexei Kasimov has developed his own rules that help to keep a working fuse and spend time on the road and away from the office effectively
The development of communications, modern technology, of course, greatly simplifies communication from a distance. But at the same time, no gadgets can replace a live conversation. Sometimes a situation just requires that you see the process on the spot, communicate with colleagues or partners. Currently, most of the business trips are related to production processes and safety issues in factories.
“Nothing surprises people like common sense and plan action”
Over the years of my career, I have developed some simple rules that help ease all the complexities of business trips. So, before the trip, I always make a plan; its essence strongly depends on the goals of the visit and the tasks that need to be addressed. If the trip is not connected with force majeure, then it is important to immediately identify your goals and objectives. Otherwise, there is a great risk of going to see Potemkin villages, when the receiving party is actively trying to hide the shortcomings, highlighting the “pluses” of their work. However, with experience I quickly learned to recognize such moves. And the designated goals limit for the receiving party the ability to turn off the route.
“Books are friends, passionless, but faithful.”
In addition, I always use the time on the road to good use. So, for example, while I’m flying in an airplane or driving in a car, I listen to audio books. For 100%, they probably will never replace paper, but in a busy work schedule they help out a lot. Books are a great opportunity for self-development, a way to look at yourself, at business from a different angle. In the stream of tasks there is a very big risk of heading into a routine and losing visual acuity. Business literature helps a lot to reload consciousness. And books always serve as a source of new ideas.
Combining leisure and business
For long business trips, especially if the schedule of meetings allows, I always take the time to study the culture and history of the place where I am. Walking around the city, getting to know the local cuisine, tradition and ceremonial – this is a vacation, as well as tremendous opportunities for development. After all, this is how we get acquainted with the mentality of local residents, learn traditions, which, by the way, helps a lot in work.
For example, in Japan, ceremonies are an important part of negotiations, an unremarkable action for us can seriously offend Japanese colleagues. Therefore, before a business trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, we studied a lot of communication features, the rules of business etiquette, and more. This helped us a lot during meetings with our Japanese colleagues.
Formalism to help
Most of the travel schedule consists of trips to their own enterprises. Time for such visits is very limited, while the list of tasks, as a rule, tends to infinity. In search of an answer to the question “How not to lose precious minutes?” We decided to formalize a bit of business trips to factories.
So, some time ago, checklists on fire safety appeared at our enterprises. If you introduce similar checklists for all other control points (product quality and others), this will allow for more focused auditing. We can check the points for each document and delve only into the area in which there is the greatest number of discrepancies. Based on the results of the trip to the plant, I draw up a report in which I reflect all the comments; during the next trip I will definitely check to understand what has changed.
But in any case, no formalism can replace live communication. At each visit to the plant, I will definitely meet with the team to discuss the direction of the company’s movement, our development plans. But it is also important that during such a conversation I get invaluable feedback from the team, this gives a powerful incentive to achieve overall success.