The view from 30,000 feet

Management would like us to believe that not everyone is qualified to understand what is actually going on with an organization without the view from 30,000 feet. Unless you have traveled that high you can’t possibly see the big picture.

This is really dangerous thinking because many managers believe they have been endowed with privilege to attend meetings about the direction of an organization. The truth is most meetings can be attended by anyone. Because nothing actually happens. Meetings are to define who is responsible and who is to blame. Anyone could have been sent to them. In fact, they could have been done by email.

But the danger continues when managers fool themselves into believing they can possibly see enough of the details at 30,000 feet. We like to think we can. But even with the right tools, you don’t experience the same things that others are experiencing on the ground. And so the disconnect with what is actually happening grows. It becomes a chasm.

The devil is in the details. Details are messy. Details take time. There is a fine line between being too caught up in the details (the view of your palm to your face). But I don’t think that is the problem from management. It is the hubris of being picked. The problem is that the higher you go up the chain the more entitled you feel to not worry about the details. You pass those responsibilities along further away. Because you don’t have time to worry about things like that. And the chasm continues to grow because no one will bother you with any details. The solution then is to build a false narrative. Everything is always okay. Everything is fine. Nothing to see here.

If an organization can find a way to travel together it provides an opportunity for real leaders to lead. Leaders take their people with them. That is the switch we are seeing in the market. Organizations have become too big to move with the changes of the market. Goldman Sachs and Walmart will not be able to keep up with what the “little guys” are doing.

When you reach the top of a mountain. Keep climbing. Together.