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Neil Davey

Spotted Zebra

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Trainers tips: Exercises for Big Picture thinking?


Damyon English asked our Any Answers forum for ideas to encourage senior managers to think more strategically, more ‘bigger picture’, to encourage them to get away from detail and lead rather than manage. Several members gave their advice.

Andrew Wood suggests a jigsaw exercise

A good exercise to use is the 'jigsaw' game. You basically split the group into two smaller groups and hand each a jigsaw box without the lid. The detail people will all rush off and try and complete the jigsaw without further query, they can get quite involved in this. At some point, a bright spark will say, "Can we have a look at the lid with the picture on please?", which of course emphasises the point that getting bogged down in detail is not always useful and sometimes it pays to step back and take a look at what you are trying to achieve. Of course you then review this in the typical fashion. There are many more free training resources like this at our website if you want to have a look.
Sheridan Webb recommends some reading material

Not an idea for an exercise or question I'm afraid, but a recommendation to read 'The One minute manager meets the Monkey' or similar 'monkey management' articles based on the research by Wiliam Oncken. I'm currently researching this for a client, and it seems to me to be the key to a lot of managerial issues and inefficiencies! If I understand you correctly, the senior managers need to stop looking after monkeys that aren't theirs.
(It will make sense when you read up on it!)
Graham O'Connell says there may be more to this problem than meets the eye

There is quite a lot bound up in your statement that might warrant some unpacking. Some may be able to see the bigger picture but are caught up in routines that drive them into detail. Some may have a psychological preference for detail. Some may be avoiding big picture issues for fear of not knowing how to response, because it is the bosses job or because it is so complex.

Thinking strategically is related to this but is not the same thing. Nor is acting like a leader rather than a manager.

Based on what you have said, and that this may be as much about culture as skills, I'd steer clear of game-like exercises, especially at this level. I'd be more inclined to run this as a strategic workshop getting them to do real life big picture work (perhaps starting with an environmental scan and some scenario planning?). Once they have mapped a big picture, then they can consider a strategic response, what they as leaders need to do as a consequence, and how they will refresh that picture, strategy and leadership response every quarter. As an intervention this is more likely to have credibility and get them to where they need to be sooner, but do check it out with the director first.

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Neil Davey

Senior Content Manager

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