Nothing else Matters until the Big Picture is Clear!

Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Apr 8, 2008

When all you are allowed to see are the two beige pixels, it is hard for anyone to get a good perspective of the task at hand.

Are these two beige pixels part of a bigger picture, the sole of a shoe perhaps? Even knowing that this is the sole of a shoe is not all that enlightening. The second picture gives more details: the shoe belongs to a child sitting on the ground scribbling on a piece of cardboard. That still, you guest it, does not give the full picture – because you've seen there is a more complete picture below showing other kids sitting on the ground also scribbling.

Surely, now you can tell me what the big picture is! If you can't, I can add that the scene is in Afghanistan. The caption under the picture started by saying "Even in a war zone, learning continues." It then continued by saying "Students in the Northern Alliance territory take final exams at a school that has no building."

The pictures alone would not have sufficed at delivering the message. The explanation alone would not have helped either.

The same is true in creating organizational and operational alignment in organizations. You need a Big Picture and a lot of documented explanations. When employees are shown only their respective pieces of the whole picture [the sole], it is virtually impossible for them to react properly when unplanned events occur, as they surely always will. It is not that employees are un-intelligent, they simply lack the perspective. It is a fundamental leadership role to make the big picture clear.

Nothing else matters until the Big Picture clear: no plans, no compensation model, no change initiative, no organizational change, no acquisitions or divestitures. The Big Picture explains why!

In my language, to avoid confusion with vision and vision statements, which are essential, I'd rather talk about the Envisioned Future. The Envisioned Future is an image [not necessarily a "real" picture] of how the future is envisioned supported by documented explanations. It should be as detailed as is needed to make the big picture clear. It should be communicated enough so all [management, staffs, the board] get it.

When all employees see the big picture of your envisioned future, they will then better understand the business strategies being implemented, they will better understand the organizational model in which they work, they will better understand the changes being made. It gives the organization the ability to empower its staff, with the comfort of knowing the direction is clear. Because all can now witness how the dots are connected, it improves communications. Then, when someone points at the two beige pixels, at least there is a better chance someone else will ask which?

It is the big picture of your Envisioned Future that is the foundation on which your business strategies are developed. It answers the question, "where are we going?"