One great challenge of leadership is maintaining a view of the larger context of the areas for which you're responsible. This problem can be particularly acute in the technology industry, where details and nuances abound.
For example, one might become deeply focused on a vendor selection process, attempting to discern the subtle benefits and drawbacks of a complex software product, while losing sight of the fact that the project in question is becoming irrelevant in the larger organizational context.
Here are ways to maintain focus on the details, while also making time for big picture thinking.
1: Remember the objective
Too often, well-conceived and carefully researched business cases are left to collect dust once approved and funded, and we can lose sight of what we're actually trying to accomplish. In the worst case, various twists and turns end up with completed initiatives that don't meet the objectives that were originally conceived, making for a "successful failure."
On at least a weekly basis, evaluate your current initiatives against the high-level goals they're meant to accomplish, and consider whether those tasks are not only on track, but still contributing to the larger objective. Regularly performing this evaluation keeps the big picture objectives of your initiatives in the foreground, and also allows for ample time to make course corrections before an initiative strays so far as to become irrecoverable.
2: Become a user
Becoming immersed in the details of a project, service, or product can obscure its value to those it is meant to serve. Take the time to become a user of your product, whether that means spending an hour or two working a help desk, or purchasing your product through the normal retail channels and examining it as an end user rather than as someone who has been intimately involved with its production. Furthermore, interact with other users of the product, either by directly soliciting feedback or by reading reviews, users forums, or similar methods.
You will often find that nuanced technical details that you've agonized over are trivial to the majority of your users, or that an overlooked detail has an outsized impact on your product, project, or service.
3: Step outside
At least annually, take the time to step away from your work and explore other industries, technologies, and thought leadership. Read an occasional book by a futurist or big thinker, and when attending conferences seek out the speakers who are focused five to ten years into the future. Take the time for personal introspection and exploration as well. Shifting mental gears for even a few hours can create new ideas, revitalize focus, and reenergize your thinking.
Spending dedicated time focusing on the big picture not only keeps your initiatives in context, but also allows you to add, discontinue, or gradually change the direction of projects as your organization and the larger industry grows and changes.
- Enterprise IT in 2020: Predictions and preparation tips
- 10 ways to stay on top of emerging technologies
- Mickey McManus: Autodesk researcher. Futurist. Technology humanizer.
- How to build trust and fight tribalism to stimulate innovation
- Executive's guide to strategic tech planning: 2015 and beyond (free ebook)
- The future of IT: A strategic guide (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)
Note: TechRepublic and ZDNet are CBS Interactive properties.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.