Is Virtual Leadership Training Better Than the Real Thing?

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

Businessman working on computer in the office.

Not only can virtual training teach soft skills like leadership, such an approach might be better suited to today’s and tomorrow’s work environments.

“Virtual training is increasing dramatically for a lot of good reasons,” says Rick Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting, a New York provider of virtual instructor-led training and e-learning. “A lot more organizations are geographically distributed. Virtual training reduces travel costs—you don’t have to pay a consultant to come to you, or for folks to go to a central location, with a day of travel each way plus the day of training. It’s much more efficient. It’s more scalable. The technology is better and better.”

Above all, it increasingly reflects real life.

Why learn to coach face to face when in the real world you have to coach virtually? It’s better to learn and practice the skill in the same way you would actually have to use it,” Lepsinger said.

Attendees dial in by phone or voice-over-Internet protocol. Live video connections allow face-to-face interactions. Collaborative software programs let participants all see the same slides at the same time, hold chats or whiteboard discussions, or answer polling questions.

“Some technology allows you to put people into small groups where they have a conversation and then come back to the big group. We often use these breakout groups for self-assessment and case studies,” Mr. Lepsinger says.

Businesspeople Sitting In A Conference Room Looking At Computer ScreenSome programs combine virtual instructor-led training and e-learning. The latter tends to be self-directed, without an instructor, and the students work alone at their own pace. “E-learning is good for concepts or skills you can learn by reading or written exercises,” he says, such as time management, building trust or critical thinking.

Virtual instructor-led training is appropriate when the skill benefits from interaction with humans or from actually practicing something, as opposed to thinking about how you would do it. Leadership skills such as coaching, managing conflict, inspiring and motivating, and building great teams all are better taught with an instructor, including a virtual one, he says.

Although cultures differ around the world, “ideas about leadership are pretty much the same,” Mr. Lepsinger says, “like giving feedback. In the U.S. or Scandinavia, they may be more direct; in Japan, they may be more subtle.” Regardless of the local culture, employees need to know how they’re doing. “We teach how to give feedback in a balanced way, how to focus on behavior,” he says. “The specifics of how you present it to someone might be different in different countries.”

The main adjustment for international audiences is to speak slowly for participants who aren’t native English speakers. Many international companies use English as a common language, but some individuals feel more comfortable writing in a chat room or on a white board rather than speaking, Mr. Lepsinger says.

Some leadership training focuses on communication skills, including projecting and interpreting nonverbal signals. That also is changing with remote work environments.

Video conferences in the workplace can still involve body language, such as facial expressions, but much of our communication is by instant message, email or phone calls, says C. Matt Graham, assistant professor of management-information systems at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine.

Millennials, who are mostly in their 20s, grew up in a digital environment. “They do most of their communication digitally,” he says. “It’s a way of communicating that earlier generations would find out of the norm.”

working on laptop, close up of hands of business manAt the same time, at work, “we no longer, in virtual environments, care about your presence. We just want you to get the job done,” Dr. Graham says. That, combined with millennials’ motivations that in general are different from previous generations, means the very definition of leadership is changing.

“We’ve moved past the idea of a leader being a guy in a suit,” he says. “Millennials share and see power in the collective.”

They also are more comfortable with some of the new technology, such as virtual assistants, that companies increasingly use. In new research, Dr. Graham found that virtual teams that used a virtual assistant programmed with answers to a series of questions developed a better product than the virtual teams without a virtual assistant.

“You can have an actual conversation with a virtual assistant,” Dr. Graham says. “It’s a different set of dynamics. It will have an impact on managers’ roles in teams.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

 

 

 

Giza3D at SXSWi – Digital Time Machines & the Future of Learning

By Aurelien
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Our Giza 3D project was featured this year in a session at South by SouthWest Interactive (SXSWi). Al Bunshaft, North America Managing Director for Dassault Systèmes and Rus Gant, Virtual Reality Designer at Harvard University let us know all the details of the project since its inception.

Enterprise PLM for Integrated New Product Market Launches

By Brian
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Over the past 6 months I’ve been blogging about Enterprise PLM in a series called PLM as the Enterprise Backbone: Emerging with Advantage. A PLM enterprise backbone anchors all enterprise systems around a forward view of a company’s product and market strategy.

Today, the most competitive corporations are establishing their market strategies based on new product portfolios, as well as the manufacturing platforms and sourcing strategies that support them, and are integrating their PLM systems across all critical functions.

To conclude this series I will emphasize what Enterprise PLM means for the fourth pillar of the enterprise backbone: integrated product and market launch, and will tie it all back together.

(As a side note, I must admit it has been a challenge for me to keep in the informal and chatty style of 3D Perspectives, but I’ll do my best. You see, my father in his day was a power systems engineer, and both my brothers have been practicing engineers (electrical / electronic and civil / environmental). My forte in life took the path of a profession in corporate strategy and technology management, rather than engineering itself, but I still think my family legacy is hard to shake off . . .)

Product Market Launch & Integration

A repeatable product launch capability that builds core competencies and competitive advantage requires integration and coordination among multiple functional areas, including product design, procurement, finance, planning, manufacturing, services, sales and marketing.

Organizations not only need to integrate internally to support product launches, but also externally with suppliers, distribution channels, and customers, creating end-to-end supply chain and aftermarket processes and capabilities which differentiate on product and customer requirements.

For example, without PLM integration new product programs have been known to get placed on hold until the technical documentation important to downstream activities (channel sales, marketing and after-market support), can be updated to the final versions of the released product.

Imagine what happens when management in a product launch readiness review meeting realizes that final changes to the product still haven’t been pushed to technical documentation for manufacturing and aftermarket service to use, and the data sheets for sales haven’t yet been updated.

It becomes clear to the business that the launch is not feasible until these updates to the technical documentation have been completed. Critical market timing windows can be missed by such a delay to market launch.

For highly engineered individual, small batch or engineer-to-order projects, for example, in shipbuilding, aircraft, or plant engineering, there are similar new product introduction requirements for project completion, bringing the systems online, and maintaining them through their extended life. Contract delivery delays can be equally costly to the business.

Integrated Launch from PLM

Product launch planning and execution, while a discipline itself, needs to be integrated to PLM as part of a company’s overall new product introduction capability.

The text-box below on Integrated Launch Planning defines the major components. Integrating the PLM system for launching the new product across operations, services, marketing, packaging and labeling, as well as other customer and end-user facing systems further leverages the virtual 3D models, product data and PLM business processes.

On this basis, there is the same source of information that is kept up to date and shared appropriately through user-role access controls, improving quality and cost, as well as reducing launch timing delays.

Market / Business Planning and Commercial Readiness

As the new product program moves through development it is important to be able to readily gauge the product readiness against the program market segment requirements, product positioning, and pricing / cost targets. Late changes to the product can impact manufacturing readiness and costs, as well as the business targets and brand strategy established for the project.

Integrated PLM systems can manage this risk from late program changes.

Downstream Sales, Services and After-Market Integration

As the product is prepared for launch, sales and service organizations are mobilized with documentation and processes to sell and support the product in the field.

  • Advanced PLM systems are able to provide technical documentation online and in interactive 3D formats.
  • Virtual training environments can leverage these models to gear up the workforce across all functional areas to improve the timing, quality and to reduce re-work or scrap in their functions.
  • Technical brochures for marketing, sales enablement and channel readiness also need to have the most up-to-date product definition, value propositions, and product positioning information.

Enterprise PLM as a Market Driven Core Competence: Tying it all Together

Companies invest in PLM to support all internal and external functions that need to use the program and product data, as well as the 3D virtual models. New product development processes and product launch activities are the roots of growth and success in most industries, and are core to competitive advantage.

Companies that systematically integrate PLM across their other enterprise systems (ERP, MRP, CRM, and SCM) can drive repeatable processes based on this integration. By continually improving their success rate of market launch, they will drive their markets in a way that others will not easily challenge.

The figure below depicts the market dynamics of firms competing with a tightly integrated and repeatable launch process over traditionally managed firms that do not establish PLM as an enterprise backbone. In this case the company with Enterprise PLM is able to consistently achieve a price / performance advantage over its traditionally organized rival.

© http://perspectives.3ds.com/

Companies that base their product launch cycles with PLM as an enterprise backbone will be able to be a technology generation ahead of their competition in a short period of time. It is on this basis that companies can leverage enterprise PLM systems to ‘emerge with advantage’ from this current global downturn and nascent recovery.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Best,

Brian

Related posts:
PLM as the Enterprise Backbone: Emerging with Advantage
PLM Enterprise Backbone Pillar 1: Product Portfolio Management
PLM Enterprise Backbone Pillar 2: Working with the Supply Chain
PLM Enterprise Backbone Pillar 3: Sustainable Development and Regulatory Compliance