||Modeling Language Spotlight
November 4, 1996
Based on a model developed by Thomas Gilbert in the book
Human Competence, published in 1978.
Like the other models of the MG Taylor Modeling Language,
the Vantage PointsModel is protected by copyright. You can use it only
by meeting these four conditions.
The Vantage Points model looks like a topographic map with
the boundary between each vantage point representing a contour line. The
question for all of you budding cartographers out there--is it a map of
a mountain or a depression? Is the Tasks vantage point the peak of the mountain
or the bottom of a pit?
Mapmakers and map readers alike know that contour lines
indicating depressions are all marked with special tick marks that point in
the direction of the downward slope. So technically, the Vantage Points model
translated into a topographic map represents a mountain or hill with the Tasks
vantage point at its summit.
The View From Task
Despite the technicality, it's useful to think of the model as both a mountain
and a pit (or a lake). In a way, you can never understand the philosophy of
a system or enterprise until you are immersed in the tasks that comprise its
daily functions. The task provides a mental elevation from which the whole essence
of the system can be contemplated. The philosophy and culture of an organization
will be expressed in the way an associate is taught or allowed to perform its
tasks. By observing people performing various tasks, by sensing the atmosphere,
energy and ethics of the environment, most anyone can determine the true expressed
philosophy of any organization. I remember waiting in a department store for
15 minutes for service, while one employee (who was watching me off and on)
completed what was obviously a casual personal phone call and the other informed
me she was going on a coffee break. Intrigued, and being in no hurry, I amused
myself in the meantime by timing the event and reading the mission statement
on customer service that hung on the wall.
On the other hand, sometimes immersion in daily tasks can blind people to culture
and philosophy, or cause them to accept it too casually. Many of our actions
are based on essentially hidden stimuli and barely understood themes. "It's
just the way we do things in this town." The models that make up our philosophy
are usually accepted as truth and fact, and any threat to their veracity may
be hotly contested on no other basis than precedent behavior. Models are ingrained
in this way for a purpose. Most of us can't spend all of our time evaluating
various philosophies; it's easier to accept one and act out from it. This avoids
confusion and allows cultures and teams to consolidate or condense. It allows
each of us to belong to something. The liability of such a phenomenon, however,
should be clear. Philosophies accepted as truth are very hard to shake or adapt
to changing circumstances.
Philosophies accepted as models can be mastered, evaluated, and exchanged based
on experience and exploration [see the 5 E's model]
Designing and Managing with the Vantage Points
Like all of the MG Taylor models the Vantage Points are meant to be managed
and designed--used as templates and auditing tools. The Vantage Points break
down into three overlapping zones for special types of management emphasis.
- Design and manage Philosophy, Culture and Policy to steer the evolution
of the enterprise.
- Design and manage Policy, Strategy and Tactics to steer the operational
and structural support of the enterprise.
- Design and manage Tactics, Logistics and Tasks to steer the work to be done
by the enterprise.
Most enterprises are used to tightly managing tactics, logistics and tasks.
Policy manuals in particular are aimed at these three levels (although Policy
manuals should be aimed at all of the other vantage points including managing
the evolution of philosophy and culture). Companies that undertake formal, structured
or systematic forms of broad-based planning manage the strategy level. However,
little attention is usually paid to managing and designing culture or philosophy
(with some notable exceptions). This is not to say that many people don't talk
about culture or philosophy or about changing both.
The seven Vantage Points do hold mutual, feedback-driven influence over one
another. It is possible to change Philosophy by innovating Tasks or Logistics.
In fact, it's rather foolish to make a statement changing philosophy or culture
and expect the change to establish itself without commensurate changes at all
of the other levels of the model.
Nevertheless, it is more difficult for tasks to influence philosophy than visa
versa. This is due to the hidden power of philosophy discussed in preceding
paragraphs, and the need for organizations to hold a standard core of commonality
in order for their identity to stay intact.
Here's a quick definition of each of the vantage points:
||The fundamental--usually hidden--beliefs
that unite the components of an Enterprise, enabling them to act as
a cohesive whole. Properly applied, philosophy enables both innovation
||Defines the various components
of the Enterprise and their relationship to one another in action. Also
encompasses standard behaviors of these components--behaviors which
are manifestations of the Philosophy.
||At the broadest level, statements
of purpose, intent and goals. At a narrower level, Policy can specify
boundaries on the design and prosecution of Strategy, Tactics, Logistics
and Tasks. Policy states the rules of the game.
||The organization, disposition
and direction of large scale forces over space and time to achieve the
objectives of Policy, maintain homeostasis in a competitive and cooperative
environment, and manage growth. Also the set of recognized "patterns
of play" known or suspected to produce favorable results when implemented.
||The art of matching the resources
of Logistics with Strategy and deploying these effectively and efficiently
in the game.
||All of the issues concerning
resources, energy and knowledge, and the mechanics of their distribution
and storage throughout the Enterprise.
||The work to be done and how
it's actually done. Chopping wood and carrying water. The way a tool
is used and treated, of course speaks plainly of the philosophy and
culture of the user.
Here's another idea for a Personal Journal page:
||Journal Assignment: It may be useful when learning the
model to think about some game you're familiar with, perhaps chess,
and evaluate it from each of the vantage points. What is the philosophy
of the game? The culture? Policies? What are the major strategies? The
zillions of tactics? How about the logistics of the game? And finally,
enumerate the tasks.
Copyright © 1996, MG Taylor Corporation.
All rights reserved
terms and conditions