Wide & Narrow

Gerwig 2015-05-06

Have you ever been stuck between the strategic and the tactical? Leaders in all organizations are asked to put together strategies, visions, and 5-year plans. They’re also asked to dig into details, dive deep, and develop solutions to difficult problems when the need arises. So which is it, strategic or tactical? You already know the answer, it’s both.

But you also know that you can’t do both all the time. As a leader, you simply don’t have enough time to do all that’s required strategically and drill into every tactical detail. Of course you have an organization that can help do some of both but where does that leave you?

Recently after a long winter, I was walking in West Hartford, Connecticut when something caught the corner of my eye. Color. Brilliant pinks. I turned my head and noticed several planters full of pink roses. Now if you’re a regular reader, you know I love flowers in general and roses in particular. So I immediately walked over and admired these colorful beauties. They brought color to an otherwise dull area along the walkway. I noticed other people admiring them as they walked along.

Then I took a couple seconds and noticed a bee, then an ant, then a perfectly formed rose bud. My vision changed from wide to narrow. At the planter-level, the wide view, I noticed color. At the individual rose-bud level, the narrow view, I noticed insects and veins on the leaves. The view was entirely different. Both unique. Both important.

The same is true for you as a leader. You need to take the wide and narrow view. You need to be strategic and, at times, you need to be tactical. You need to set strategy and, occasionally, you need to help solve a difficult problem and remove obstacles.

As a leader, I don’t walk along with my nose to the pathway. I scan. I look wide. I swivel my head. If something catches my eye, I zero in. My vision narrows. You may look at many high-level metrics in your organization, but only dive deep into one occasionally. For example, if you notice that monthly sales, weekly deliveries or annual recordable injuries are out-of-control, you dig in. You conduct a root-cause analysis. Ok, depending on your role in the organization, you may delegate it to someone (or a team), but you’re still diving deep, working at a more granular level than you do when you’re scanning the environment for obstacles, setting strategies and communicating vision.

For many, the use of metrics, control charts and scorecards provide an easy way to scan performance on a wide basis. Then, if something goes out-of-control, haywire or off the chart, you know it’s time to go narrow and dive into the details.

Lastly, the percentage of time you spend on the strategic versus tactical depends often depends upon the size of your organization and the role you play. The CEO of a global corporation is obviously required to spend much more time on strategy than an entry-level bookkeeper at a small, private company. But the CEO will, at times, need to go narrow. And the bookkeeper will, at times, need to go wide.

How about you? How do you pay attention to the wide and narrow? How do you know when to dive deep and go narrow? How do you when to stay wide and strategic?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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