See The Big Picture
With all the work you have to do, it’s so easy to work for efficiency and forget to step back to see the big picture. Getting things done and out the door becomes the primary goal. While efficiency certainly matters, your clients want more.
Miss The Big Picture
I remember a story an engineering friend told me of a young, talented engineer who was assigned the responsibility of designing a solution to handle water runoff. The young engineer had plenty to do and simply saw the assignment as another task among all the others on his desk.
When he was done, the young engineer submitted his work for review. After examining it, my friend said it was well-designed according to all the standards and could handle the water runoff adequately. All the calculations were correct and it was a beautiful example of his design capability. There was one small problem. The drainage solution was on the wrong side of the road! As designed, the water overflow would have to cross the very structure that the solution was designed to protect. Hmm.
The young engineer wasn’t an idiot. He just got so focused on getting it done well and right that he didn’t step back to see the big picture about where his task fit. His drive to be efficient overshadowed his effectiveness.
Know Your Client’s Big Picture
This error is so easy for any professional to experience. If you’re honest, you have your own examples of getting it right and still being wrong. You’ve experienced completing your work and missing something so obvious. Your clients and supervisors are especially annoyed when you miss silly things or that you don’t connect the obvious dots. They expect more of you and if you become defensive or blame others, you especially don’t show well.
While being efficient is important, it’s also your job to tie your work to the client’s big picture—their goals, aspirations and desires. That means you must know what they are. You either don’t know them or you assume what they should be. But since you don’t know their real aspirations, you are tempted to focus too much on what you produce instead of how it connects to what is most important.
When you expand your practices to include a look at the big picture, you will catch all kinds of missteps. Simply ask the questions: What’s the main objective of the engagement or project? What’s the client trying to accomplish? How does my/our work further the client’s goals? (Hint: the answer isn’t a successful engagement or project.)
As you get into your work today, make sure you know how your efforts matter to your clients. Step back and see their big picture.
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