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« Dealing with speed | Main | When is the right strategy wrong? »
Tuesday
Sep172013

Struggling to get the big picture?

Try cycling.

What will the issue be today? Cash flow? Customers? Operations? There’s always something going on. It’s not just business. Life is a big to do list: family, education, career, housing, finance. There’s a lot to manage.

We are supposed to be guided by strategic vision – standing astride our world, emotionally detached, leading others and ourselves through the maze of ordinary day-to-day stuff.

That’s a pretty dumb expectation.

I don’t know anyone like that. I know people who can do that some of the time, but not all of the time.

For that matter, what’s wrong with just doing the day-to-day stuff? A great CEO I know just deals with everything as it happens. She’s a brilliant administrator and a great leader. Things get done. People follow her.

Is the big view useful?

It’s handy in odd ways. Even staring at the stars on a clear night can help perspective. I do that sometimes and it works. Ditto for spectacular views from remote mountaintops. Standing back, looking at the whole, is a calming process.

But it’s hard to do it at work, unless your office is open at night and has an amazing view that you are not already tired of. Getting out of the office is a good first step. What then? Here’s one place you can start.

Observe the cycle.

There is a cycle to just about everything.  Economies grow, prosper, recede and recover and then repeat. So do markets. Australian equities hit a five-year high this week, as did US stocks and many others. Only five years ago they hit a five year low. That will happen again too.

How’s your industry. Is it in mining and receding, or in services and rising? What about your product. Is it new, growing, peaking or declining? Or your firm? Is it a struggling start up, in rapid growth phase, or mature and in need of reinvention. And there’s you. Where are you in the cycle of life? Are you looking for new adventures, a steady state or an orderly wind down?

You might do all that and freak out, but there is no point. You can’t do anything about the cycle. It’s out of your control. Your job is to respond to it.

Exactly where are you?

Draw a cycle on a piece of paper – basically a big ‘S’ drawn sideways. Then choose something from your business or your life that you have to manage and place it on the cycle.

Now you are starting to see the big picture.

Rather than freak out about the cycle, ask yourself: “what is the most appropriate step I or we should take at this point?”

The answer might be anything from selling your business to launching a new product. It could be something simple like taking the kids camping or playing more golf. Sometimes it’s just doing more of the same. Other times you have to move on. If the horse is dead, get off.  

A broader perspective means better decisions. Try looking from a calmer spot. Rather than be overwhelmed by the cycle, observe where it is, where you are on it, and where it is heading.

 

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