Understand the Bigger Picture
Dec 20, 2010
I work for a company which is in high technology industry. One of our key delivery strategies is process orientation. Process orientation magically delivers consistency of outcomes while simultaneously driving cost out. However, if people in our industry just follow process without understanding the larger picture, the resulting trivialization could potentally cause disasters.
For example, imagine someone who is tasked with pushing software updates to a live communication network. Pushing that upgrade could be a straight forward and simple task. However pushing the upgrade without taking the right precautions, could potentially bring down the entire network in no time. Different folks connected to that network could be doing something mission critical using the network at different times. Context is usually dynamic in nature and even the best defined process cannot accomodate all the dynamism in the context.
Technicians/Engineers who are able to visualize this picture will be a lot more careful with the upgrade process than those who just see the task at hand.
It is therefore critical for people to always take a step back from what they are doing and see the outcome in context through a larger frame of view. This is a critical success factor. Teams that understand this well produce magically better results.
I am reminded of a story that nails this point squarly on the head.
A king once ordered for the most beautiful temple built in his kingdom. His people started working on the job. The king cared and went to inspect progress frequently.
One day he got a doubt. He wanted to know how his supervisors knew who are their best workers. He therefore asked his chief supervisor how selection was done. The supervisor suggested that the king could approach workers randomly and ask them a simple question - "What are you doing?". Of course the king had to be in proper disguise when doing this. The king was interested and agreed to the proposal.
So the next day our king went to the work site in disguise. He randomly chose workers and asked the prescribed question. They were all doing the same job. They were cutting stones to prescribed size for the construction.
One worker answered, "Can't you see? I am cutting a stone". He quickly went back to his work.
The second interesting answer came from another worker. He said, "I am doing a precision job here. I am cutting stones to prescribed size and I am watching carefully that the measurement of each one I cut is precisely close to requirements.
Yet another third one said, "See that temple being built! I am ensuring that my work will enable and enhance its beauty and precision".
He then went to talk to his supervisors. Interestingly they explained their approach was to miximize hiring people of the third kind. For any shortfall, they find people with an attitude to learn and become the third kind soon.
The king was convinced that his supervising team knew how to identify and manage competences.