People who prioritize the big picture tend to focus on the broad, overall view of an idea or project.
The opposite of big picture thinking – obsessing about details – is critical when executing a project, but not when developing vision.
I was working with a client on a long-term training plan to solve some problems of engagement and retention. Very early in the process, the client really wanted to know if it was okay to serve lunch at 12:30 on a training day. “Is that too late? I think some of our people eat a late breakfast, and I want them to have a good appetite for lunch, but 12:30 sounds late.”
This would be a great question the week before the training day. But it came before we had even scheduled the dates, or determined the exact content.
Contrast this with the early years of developing Small Business Saturday. Shaunn D’Alessandro led much of the early work that was executed by the team at M Booth. Alex Della Rocca, a long-time M Booth team member, says that Shaunn’s big-picture thinking “kept us honest”.
Anytime someone got too mired in the details, Shaunn would ask the same guiding question:
“Will this keep or incentivize people to shop locally this time of year?”
In year one, there was a philanthropic piece to SBS, and this caused some team members to expend a lot of time (and stress) deciding the charity and seeing the donation through.
In subsequent years, Shaunn’s guiding question – will this keep or incentivize people to shop locally this time of year? – helped those team members realize that obsessing over the details of a charitable donation didn’t advance Small Business Saturday’s overall mission of getting people to patronize their locally-owned/independent brick and mortar businesses.
Early in the work on any project, resist prioritizing details, and instead prioritize the big picture.
Prioritizing the Big Picture is a leadership behavior that helps drive Exploration during the Vision process of the Work of Leaders.
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This is the second post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.
For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.
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