Looking at the big picture

If you do not know the mountains and the forests, the ravines, swamp and moors, you shall not be victorious. He, however, who is victorious because he knows how to change and fit the environment to his needs, deserves to be called a genius. e.g., (Tzu S., 2009)Sun Tzu

Reviewing the “Big Picture” is a major part of developing a strong business strategy. It is essential that strategies step back from day to day activities in order to see the business as a whole, allowing a strategy to be developed.

Reviewing the big picture may highlight areas of the day to day work schedule that are unimportant/no needed, thus making these activities redundant and displaying that they are currently not required.

Before a business can move forward, it must review its past. They key questions include:

  • What were the successes and where did they come from?
  • What has worked since the company started?
  • What has failed?
  • What projects have been attempted?
  • How has the past led to the situation the company is in now?
  • What lesson can be learned?
  • What lessons need to be unlearned?

In reviewing its past, a business can begin to understand the way in which it operates and the reasons behind it. Trends can be seen and the

intentions of different parties can be understood more easily.

Firms must also explore their future and review the outcomes of possible routes in order to establish the best possible route to take. Key questions include:

  • What is likely to happen to the company if current trends continue?
  • What happens if current assumptions are wrong?
  • How long can the business last if a key market disappears?
  • What great things could happen if the business changes directions?

Reviewing the future allows business’ to determine the best time to change its course of action from its current trajectory. Gaining a greater understanding of the future will allow the business to have a greater understanding of current implications and the affects they may have. A “bigger picture” allows for greater understanding, which in turn is more likely to result in a greater success rate.

An essential aspect of reviewing the big picture is to look outwards. Reviewing activity outside of the business, its markets or country is essential in developing a broad perspective to make better decisions. Key questions include:

  • What are the fastest-growing trends in the world?
  • What social changes could have an impact on the company?
  • What are competitors doing?
  • What are the new normal ways of doing things?
  • Is the business being left behind?
  • Who can the business learn from?

In looking outward, business’ can see what others are missing. Reading other industry magazines, experimenting with different technologies, understanding key aspects of other industries are all integral in allowing the business to find new markets, niches and gain an attackers advantage, giving value to their consumers.

Many employees focus on their day to day activities without understanding what they do and the affect it has on other aspects of the business. They are looking at the “smaller picture” and in order to review the larger environment they must answer some key questions:

  1. What is the official (or formal) strategy of the business?
  2. How well is the company and industry doing?
  3. What are other people saying about the company and industry?
  4. How does their job (and the work of their team) contribute?

There are a variety of essential questions one must ask of themselves in order to compose the bigger picture, thus allowing more informed, accurate decisions to be made. Not to look at the bigger picture is not to be strategic and this will inevitably result in the business not taking advantage of opportunities and not gaining a first mover advantage over possible threats.

It‘s important to look forward, backward and outside of the company in order to see the big picture, this however, is only the beginning.

The second key step is to break the various details into manageable pieces that create a bigger picture, thus allowing a greater understanding.

A simplified model of the big picture makes for greater understanding from all involved, reducing confusion and allowing greater strategic planning. Clear understanding of the implications of actions can be understood allowing those involved to understand each other’s arguments and reasoning.

It is only when one can fit pieces of information together in a big picture of a business that he has developed a strong strategic understanding. When reading about an event, a good strategist will be able to see the implications to the business and how they must plan for the future.

Good strategists will also posses the ability to draw simple diagrams of business functions, activities and a detailed analysis. He shall also be able to communicate their ideas and reasoning in order to build support.

In order to build the bigger picture of the business, some analysis tools such as PEST, SWOT, Porters Five Forces and the Value Chain Diagram can be used.

Each tool gives different information from a different view point, thus allowing a bigger picture to be built through a strategic point of view.

Author: Carlo Olmi

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