In an earlier post, I suggested that it's important sometimes to focus on the "half full" aspect of "your glass" and other times on its "half empty" portion. Here, a few related words on telescopes…
When thinking about a business challenge, and making related plans and decisions, I believe it's valuable to force yourself to view it through both ends of the telescope: Both the "right way" around, magnifying and examining the involved issues in all their fine detail, and also the "wrong way", so as to step back and see the big picture, condensing the specific question at hand down to its essential elements only, and examining them in context of your overall situation.
The former way of looking at a new product development effort, for example, yields questions such as:
- Do we know how to implement "Feature X"?
- How much more will it cost us to increase performance by 10%?
- Have we considered alternative ways to organize this development?
- Is Company A the best partner with whom to work on this?
- How can we shorten time-to-market?
And so on.
The later, "wrong way," view through the telescope yields these:
- Should we be doing this project at all?
- Do we know how we'll make money selling this product?
- Are we proliferating too many product variants?
- Would the money we're about to spend here be better used adding more sales people?
Both sets of questions are valid, and important to ask and answer.
You should challenge your team to turn the telescope around regularly, looking at the issues they're facing from both perspectives. They'll make better decisions and waste less time and resource along the way.
When coaching on this point, I often also recommend that folks try to think about the questions they're tackling from the perspective of "Their Boss's Boss" Why? Because it forces them to think about "their" issue from a bigger picture perspective. How will various approaches to the problem impact not just their project, but the overall business? It challenges them to ask broader-based, and often more relevant questions.
Beyond injecting a higher order perspective into project team thought processes, this advice also has the salutory side effect of lessening silo thinking and organization politics. A focus on how to help an entire business unit displaces the narrow focus on personal or team issues that can all too easily consume the thinking of middle managers.