details and big picture

    If you are a person who sweats the details, you have probably heard people tell you to “see the Big Picture.” That can be tough when you know that the devil is in the details. It’s the details that can trip up a company. And for every strategic initiative that has failed, the post-mortum usually reveals that the cause was a lack of attention to the details. Still, if you are a detailed person, your career can hit a wall. Unless you change the perception and help people see that you can see the forest – and not just the trees.

    Why you need to see the Big Picture

    First, seeing the bigger goal or objective and tying it back to the details is important to feel good about your work. No one wants to audit a spreadsheet for accuracy. I mean, that’s not a way most of us choose to spend an afternoon. But if you can see the Big Picture and tie spreadsheet accuracy to accurate checks reaching customers, it is a lot easier to want to do it right. So the first reason to see the Big Picture is to give meaning and purpose to detailed work.

    The second reason to see the big picture is to connect your work to other people and their work. When you clearly understand the work that precedes yours as well as the work which comes after, you can feel more connected to other departments and other people. In my experience, the people who take the time to learn how their work affects others become the “go to” friendly experts for future questions. That is how you build a reputation for being a team player and for being ready for more interesting challenges. The second reason is somewhat selfish: seeing the bigger picture makes you a better resource for high visibility projects.

    Ways to see the Bigger Picture

    Meetings with your manager is the best place to start. Each time you meet with your manager, ask about a process that connects to other departments. How it is measured? What happens when it is not accurate?

    Talk to people in other departments. Here’s the thing though: ask questions and listen. Don’t chat about the latest gossip or sports. Ask them what is one thing they wish was better about their job. They will start talking about something meaty, I promise. Tall them how you think they spend their time. Then ask them how they really spend their time. Ask them what they love or hate about the work your department does. If you show true interest and listening skills, you will start to see the big picture.

    Use those open office hours. You know, how managers say they are “available” during office hours? Well, 90% of those hours are just spent reading emails. Because it is a rare employee who walks in and asks a business question. BE that employee. More importantly, use the office hours of someone who isn’t your manager. Ask them how your department is percieved and what they think your department can do to improve. Sure, it will be out of character. And, yes, they will mention your visit to your boss. But isn’t that the reputation you want? To be someone who thinks about more than the work directly in front of them. THAT is how you build more connections and understanding of the big picture.

    Read the PR. Pay attention to company earnings calls or when your CEO is featured in a webinar or interview. Listen for the meaningful words and the key measurements. Then connect those measurements to your work. At least learn if your company focuses on tech advances or shareholder earnings or store growth. Because when you know what is being emphasized by your company’s leaders and you can accurately connect that to your work, you will see the Big Picture.

    What are other ways you use to see the Big Picture? Because it is critical if you want to move into management or take on a larger role at your company.

    See the Companion Post: Details for Big Picture People