A 30,000-Foot Business View: What Does It Really Mean?



By Larry Girouard, Business Avionix Company, LLC

I had the opportunity to be the after dinner speaker at the monthly Project Management Institute dinner last month, which was held at CVS headquarters in Woonsocket. At a time long, long ago (which means the 1960’s), I was involved in project management as a young mechanical engineer for the DuPont Company in Newark, Delaware.

In preparing my 60-minute presentation, I tried to relate my experiences back then with the market penetration work I currently perform for my clients. I challenged clients to look at their businesses from the 30,000-foot vantage point, a concept that is over-discussed and under-used in today’s business rhetoric.

What does the 30,000-foot view have to do with project management; a discipline with the foundation of Pert Charts, Gantt Charts, timelines, critical path scheduling, accountability, and so on?

Customers see and experience what comes out of the corporation. We as marketers affectionately call this the “Value Proposition.” While customers, other than in retail, visit plants from time to time, non-retail customers do not need to visit the plant/office to utilize corporate services. This is true for organizations like manufacturers, contracted services; plumbers, electricians, building contractors and the like. When customers visit retail businesses, such as restaurants or pharmacies, the value proposition is a more intimate because they are in the plant, but rarely visit the kitchens or the administration offices of these service establishments.

OK, so what goes on in these companies that the customer does not see? This is where the 30,000-foot view comes into play because it is these internal activities that support the value proposition, which frames the customer experience. While our businesses are run by employees, in reality business is simply a series of integrated processes driven by these employees.

If you look at a business in its simplest form, much like some of the early case studies we were assigned in school, these studies challenged us to think more strategically and conceptually as we brainstormed various business options. By taking out the human element for a moment and viewing your business as a series of mechanical processes, you are able to get a different perspective of the operation.

Everything we do in our daily work is a process of some kind. The chart above details a few of these processes. The efficiency of these processes, when integrated together, form the foundation for the quality of the value proposition.

The great thing about processes is that each one can be quantified in some manner, shape or form. By quantifying a process using time, money, quality or some other metric, you can measure any improvements to that specific process and also measure its impact on the resulting value proposition. The quality of the value proposition is directly linked to the efficiency of each of the companies processed. The “cause and effect” alignment with the value proposition is direct.

Circling back to project management I suggested to the 130 attendees that they consider looking at “corporate value proposition optimization” as a project and set up the same project methodologies that are used for any other project.

This would include quantifying the current state of the value proposition and then, through internal process optimization, measure the improvement impact on the evolving value proposition. Relating to that old time-tested adage, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, quantifying process improvements both validates the work and provides sales/ marketing with a better basis for differentiation.

Project implementation has two caveats when dealing with the behavior changes that must accompany process improvement. First, employees need to be empowered to make the changes to the processes that they are responsible for because a top down “command and control” culture will present a very high risk where changes will not be sustainable. Second, any efficiency project (which this would be) must have a job security element attached to it. Better said, management must convey to employees that, as long as they are “on the bus” in supporting process improvement, no one will lose their jobs.

Trust in management is the glue that will hold this approach together. The thesis is straight forward: quantifiably improve the value proposition and this will lead to increased market penetration (sales). As you grow, because of the improved efficiency you do not add employees at the same rate. This will drive up the sales/employee and profit/employee ratios, making monies available that will allow management to reward employees for the “gift of efficiency” the employees have worked hard to develop.

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