Your BIG Picture...Don't Leave Home Without It...

The Problem

Often times we encounter a person or team, who is holding up or frustrating the progress of the larger organisation in some way.

This may not be deliberate. They don’t mean to derail the project or drag down the company’s progress…..but it happens anyway!

The elements that slow overall progress can be many but some of them can include:

  • lack of information sharing

  • highly specialised teams working in isolation

  • unwillingness to spend money

  • teams interested mainly in their own success (a ‘them-and-us’ attitude)

  • clinging to outdated policies

…and if you think about your own experiences you can probably come up with a few more!

And often, these scenarios seem completely logical and rational to the teams or people following them!

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was pulling in the same direction: every one knew exactly how their job contributed to the mission and specific goal of the company, everyone ‘had each other’s back’, and individuals or teams assisted others in the company if they saw them struggling…It would feel pretty good to come to work I imagine!

Very few companies achieve this, but for those who get close, they consistently out-perform the competition.

The Big Picture…

I would bet that we have all heard a phrase similar to: “C’mon, lets look at the big picture here!” It’s often said when someone is clogging up progress in some way and probably can’t (or wont) see it.

Here’s the snag; they often don’t know what the big picture is!

So what do we do?

Painting the big picture is a leadership responsibility for which the CEO is accountable. It’s a continual task that’s never ‘finished’ and it requires at a minimum:

  • Continual input from others – both inside and outside the organisation

  • A continual rhythm to check the big picture’s validity and to re-shape it if needed

  • Continual rhythmical communication of the picture throughout the organisation

  • Regular measurement to ensure that the organisation is moving in the right direction at the right pace

Wow! You might be thinking “that sounds like a lot of work”…and you’d be right!

The great news is, that very few companies bother to take things to this level and will never lead the field in their market. If you chose this path – and you don’t have to implement all the elements at once – you have a much much greater chance of aligning your team and achieving success.

How big is ‘Big’

I would say your Big Picture needs four parts:

  1. Something wild and aspirational (may be ten-years out). Important: The rate of technological advances will likely change this over time. Remember I mentioned getting continual input from inside and outside the company? That will help you with keeping this current and relevant.

  2. This year’s goal (12 months out)

  3. The next 90 day’s goal – this is crucial, as any goal that takes longer than around 90 days to achieve is too far away for continual monitoring and adjustment.

  4. An understanding of how each team will contribute in some way to the 90-day goal.

Yes, it’s hard work and yes, its even tougher on your own. But the riches are more likely to be yours if you try.

A Quick Story in Conclusion: Apollo vs. ELDO (European Launcher Development Organisation)

Spaceflight is complex, really complex. But NASA’s Apollo program was successful where as ELDO’s was not. And it was not a matter of knowledge and skills.

The technical expertise of the European team at the time the space race was in full swing (late 1950’s through the 1960’s) was on a par with those in the United States. Apollo’s success came down to one overriding factor: alignment with their big picture. This fundamental management approach allowed sharing of information and real-time collaboration. The structure of the ELDO team perpetuated specialists developing their particular components in isolation and then piecing them together hoping they would work.

Apollo eventually employed 300,000 people working for 20,000 contractors, and 200 universities in 80 countries. It also cost $19 billion!

Now, you may not be involved with spaceflight or be dealing with anything like those kinds of numbers, but if you start getting people aligned with what you’re really trying to achieve – Your Big Picture – and demonstrate how the team members are directly contributing , you can achieve your business’s equivalent of putting a man on the moon!


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