A bird's-eye business view
I’m fortunate to be staying at the W Hotel in Hoboken, N. J., for a meeting as I write this. If you haven’t recently been on this side of the Hudson River, it ain’t the New Jersey from years ago! Looking at the Manhattan skyline from my window, I realize I’ve never had an opportunity to study it from this perspective any longer than an airplane takes on final approach into the Newark airport.
When you’re in the middle of something, it’s hard to get a good look at it in total. Seeing Manhattan from Manhattan is the only way to experience the wonderful granularity of it, but a bird’s-eye view from across the river gives you a different perspective.
When my son returned from Iraq several years ago, many people peppered him with questions, anxious to hear his street-level observations. His perspective as a Marine sergeant was insightful but not adequate to make a general’s decisions. (He was smart enough to answer, “That’s above my pay grade!” to the political questions people asked him.) Generalizing from a specific is never a good idea.
I recently spent time with members of a small business’s management team. They knew the details of their business extremely well, things such as product knowledge, supply chain and end-user profiles. However, they were missing the view from across the river. They were so into details that they hadn’t looked at their business from outside their bubble and the industry changes that were causing them problems.
They assumed their challenges were all about the execution, and some were. But their strategy was wrong for what the future entailed. They had a sergeant’s perspective, not a general’s. As we parted ways I thought, they’ll either get a room with a view across the river to see the bigger picture, or they’ll go back and redouble their efforts, doing the wrong things.
A well-worn axiom says you should work on your business rather than in it. If you own or manage a small or medium size business, you may be required to spend large amounts of time in the details of your business. However, if you don’t step back and get a different view, you’re in just as much danger as walking across the street while looking at your shoes.