The View From the Infield

In which we are encouraged to ask for and take “the plant tour” before proposing solutions.

The Boston Red Sox are having a terrible season (at least to this point). The traditional “September sag” seems to have started early, like, in June. At this point, the Sox are 15 games behind the Yankees with  42 games to go. While it’s possible that the Yankees could lose enough games and the Red Sox could win enough games to close that gap to, say, a respectable 2 – 3 games back or better, I’m not holding my breath. 

However, whether the team stands or falls this season, there’s always Fenway Park which has stood in Boston in all of its glory since 1912.

I was there, a few weeks ago, in Grandstand Section 15. Our seats lined up just a little to the right of first base. We looked down the base path between first and second base to the Green Monster wall. The Park felt… intimate… and the diamond looked small. The exceptional speed and skills of the players (and, sometimes the Red Sox players… sorry, it hasn’t been an exceptional season…) made it look smaller.

Cut away to Concord, Massachusetts. A five-minute walk from my office, there is a town park, an expanse of grass used by soccer and Ultimate Frisbee teams. At one end of the park, there is a full-sized baseball practice infield.  

One afternoon, I walked from home plate to first base – about 32 paces – and turned to look at the infield. Although the dimensions are the same as those of the Fenway Park infield, this practice infield looked enormous! And the challenge of throwing a ball from third base to first, accurately and fast enough to catch out a runner, very clear.  

When we’re trying to get to “first base” with our clients and prospects, it’s easy to sit in their offices (their “Grandstand seats”), listen to their stories, and draw conclusions about what they could or should do, just as we second guess baseball teams’ managers. Many times, we’re tempted to propose solutions based on what we hear as we sit in those “Grandstand seats” and why not? Our clients or prospective clients know their organizations better than we do, yes? 

They do, yes, and yet… when we step out onto the infield – go out into the organization, take the plant tour, talk to the people on the shop floor or in the back office or out in the field, we see a different perspective. What we hear in the comfort of the client’s Grandstand office, high above the field, can look much larger or much different when we’re standing right there, on the field itself. It’s good to “walk the infield” so we can see the size of the challenges for ourselves.  

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to sell services to business clients through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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