Many people do not have the ability to see the big picture.  And by “big picture” I mean the entire perspective – whether it is a situation or an issue.

So why is this?  There are multiple reasons.  Some people have never been allowed to think beyond their respective area.  Some have never wanted to think about everything.  Some have never needed to think beyond their realm.  Some blatantly avoid thinking outside of their box.  The list of reasons goes on.

In addition to these reasons, I consider hierarchical structures.  In particular, pyramid-shaped, hierarchical structure of authority.  In the workplace, how many CEOs do we see?  How many Presidents?  Most networks have a node and branch out.  We’ll see one headquarter with multiple locations and subsidiaries that report up.  Essentially, we tend to see more room for people at the bottom and less at the top.

So let’s say you’re that one President at the top.  You’re setting the tone, and you’re leading your subordinates by example.  You not only have to think about them, but you have to think about yourself, the organization, competitors and those outside of your organization.  You must have a global perspective.  And nothing less would be expected since one considered fit for such a role should have this ability.

This expectation certainly wouldn’t be the same for Jimmy John who is 16 levels below the President.  Jimmy John’s responsibilities don’t extend beyond operating the welding machine in the factory.  So he arguably doesn’t need to know anything beyond how the machine helps him accomplish his task so that the next person down the assembly line can do their job.  But let’s say Jimmy John has taken it upon himself to ensure the machine remains clean, is frequently maintained, and he reports any excessive defects or quality control issues that hinder productivity to his supervisor.  This would indicate a broader point of view.  Outside of his specific contribution, Jimmy John is able to recognize other pieces of the puzzle that ultimately affect the company’s bottom line.  At his level, this holistic view will set him apart from his colleagues and help him perceive ways to innovate.

In all, maintaining a “big picture” perspective should never be thought of as unnecessary if you’re not in a role where it is generally expected.  You never know where you will end up.  The CEOs and Presidents weren’t always at the pinnacle.  And if you can practice this ability today, you’ll be better prepared for tomorrow.  By then, this ability will be more fluid.  Always step back and question.  What is the objective? Why does it matter?  What is it helping achieve?  What else is relevant?

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