The Vantage Point Problem in Growing a Business

Have you seen the movie The Vantage Point? It was a suspense thriller, easy to watch, with an intricate plot, showing the same 20 minutes or so as experienced by six or eight different people.

As you can probably guess, what actually happens looks radically different through each different set of eyes and ears, not to mention location, and intention. I found it fascinating. Nobody gets more than a glimpse of what’s really going on.

I realized later that the vantage point problem is a real problem in growing a business. The view from different places — the owner, the receptionist, the programmer, the marketing person, the sales manager, the admin and accounting people — is all different.

How often is the sales people’s favorite customer the accounts receivable clerk’s nightmare? The marketing people see the product in a radically different way than the production people? What do you do, in your business, to get the whole view?

4 thoughts on “The Vantage Point Problem in Growing a Business

  1. I’m interested to see what people have to say on this subject. I have some ideas but I don’t own my own business, or have an MBA, so I’m eager to learn from people with the experience. 🙂

  2. Sorry to take so long to respond, I was out for a few days and only now circled back to check comments. 🙂 Since you encouraged my input, here is what I have experienced and where I think it has gone wrong.

    In my experience upper management doesn’t want to know what’s going on in the bowels of the company. They look at the numbers and ask questions about specific problems or issues, but as long as that all lines up they don’t delve too deep. They eventually get very far out of touch with the people actually doing the work.

    There is often a massive disconnect between management and the workers. In many cases people in management rose to a level where they could make the decisions regarding how the people below them would do their jobs. Process and technology changes in multiple areas aren’t discussed outside of individual departments, so nobody has a handle on how it trickles through the organization. The managers keep doing what they always did clueless to what’s going on elsewhere.

    To me the best way for a manager to find out what is going on in the company is to do a worker’s job for a while. Spend an hour answering phones, creating quotes, submitting invoices, or talking to non-management people at a customer about a project. Walk the proverbial mile. To add strength to this management should organize cross-functional teams, even if it is at the supervisor or manager level. Let them see how what they do impacts other people.

    The key to all this is transparency, open lines of communication and a culture free from empire building or finger pointing. Treat people like people, value their input, and encourage them to be the best version of their work selves they can be. If you own a business you are a leader, so you should act like one.

    1. Thanks Charles, good addition. I’ve seen and consulted for some large companies with some of the traits you cite here, fortunately not ever among my favorite clients. I think of that disenfranchisement problem as more likely to happen in larger companies, but it can happen anywhere.

      I don’t blame people for not caring about the quality of their work if they don’t feel that their supervisors, or the company, care.

      Thanks again for the addition,

      Tim

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