“The Big Picture” is the larger situation you face in the marketplace: the current market conditions, how effectively your organization is doing in that market, and, most importantly, what areas you must improve to gain better market position. Do you understand where your business stands in relationship to its competitors? Most employees do not, yet that very information is often driving decisions at the top which impact the employees at all levels.
I am often surprised in difficult moments how rare it is that workplaces share the actual situations they face. Instead, they tend to try top down short-sighted emergency measures that demoralize the employees and mostly fail because they are conducted too far from the people who really know the possible solutions which would work much better.
Kurt Lewin, talking about World War II with Japan, stated: “In such a situation no special effort is required to keep morale high. The very combination of a definitive objective, the belief in final success and the realistic facing of great difficulties is high morale. The individual who makes extreme efforts and accepts great risks for worth-while goals does not feel that he is making a sacrifice, instead he merely feels that he is acting naturally.”1
OK, so most companies are not fighting a war, yet in today’s workplace there are many dire scenarios of which the employees are unaware simply because the leaders have not shared the real pain they are in.
How many plants have you heard about which were suddenly closed and moved to a new location in order to produce the product more cheaply? Imagine how hard the workers would work if they knew the scenario they were in and the production improvements they needed to achieve to keep the plant in place. Add in the mix solid problem-solving and workplace-improvement strategies and likelihood of success gets even greater.
In dire circumstances, just sharing the situation is not enough. You need to also have a plan, complete with a solid structure and process to involve employees in helping solve the issues. In chapter 5 of my book Strategic Engagement - Volume II, I provide you the process I use to create such a plan.
However, to succeed, you need the type of organizational alignment advocated in my first book, Strategic Organizational Alignment. With a solid strategy and an aligned workforce, you can involve those closest to the work and not only reach unthinkable business numbers, but also increase morale along the way. Cost cutting and increasing production are a few of the areas that can most easily be achieved with a combination of honesty and an effective people strategy to solve the problems.
On the flip side, I have seen business after business solve their yearly cost problems or production issues by making decisions from on high and imposing them below. In each scenario, businesses who maintained the pattern each year slowly self-destructed into layoffs, early retirements, and significant loss of market share.
The big picture can only have an impact if it is shared. Honesty about your current situation, combined with a plan created by a wide cross section of your organization can yield remarkable results and invigorate your employees!
1Lewin, K. (1997). Resolving Social Conflicts & Field Theory in Social Science. American Psychological Associates p. 93