Thursday, August 13, 2009

Paint the big picture for them



When talking shop a couple of weeks ago, a friend told me she didn't see how her work was connected to her company's strategy. While this is a common complaint, I was surprised. She works in marketing - on some of her company's most important projects. In a critical role too.

If she couldn't see why or how her day to day work fitted into the bigger picture, what are the chances for the many others working on the smaller initiatives? It reminded me of a story Peter Drucker wrote in one of his many insightful management books:

Three stonecutters were asked what they were doing. The first replied that he was "making a living". The second proudly said he was doing the "finest work of any stonecutter in the country". The third replied "I am building a cathedral".

Peter Drucker explains that the first man knows what he wants from his job. He puts in his 8-hour day in return for a fair wage. That's fine. But the problem is with the second man. He may get caught up polishing the steps of the cathedral for weeks without understanding his job is to build the cathedral.

I've always felt this story was relevant to us marketing folk.

We can get caught up in how beautifully our ads have been executed. We fight for hours on how a line of copy reads. Don't get me wrong - copy is important. Very. (And we do fight for hours over words). I want our ads to be the finest they can be. I want to be proud of the work we do. I want to work with people that love what they do. But the work must always be connected back to the big picture. As the phrase goes, "Strategy without sharp execution is a dream. And execution without strategy is a nightmare".

As managers, our role is to make sure our teams understand the big picture. What it is. And where they fit into it. If they can't see it, we need to paint it for them. Regularly.

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