Over the years I have written several columns encouraging
you to step back and try to get a bigger picture of your work and your
career. While this is still good advice, reversing this concept can
also be useful. There are times when you need to zoom in on your work
and inspect the minutia that are often ignored. Not only will this intense
focus yield its own reward, it will also help you to gain a deeper understanding
of the big picture.
One at a time
The key to zooming in is to take one item – one form, one web
page, one program, one task – and study every aspect of it, down
to the last detail. Do you really need that form? Do you really need
to do this task? What needs to be cleaned up or upgraded on a server?
Do we need it at all? Can it be consolidated? What attention does this
one user or one PC need?
Within minutes, you will have an entire roster of tasks, projects and
ideas to implement. Some will be specific to the individual item, but,
and here is the best point, most of the items will apply to tens or
hundreds of similar items across your department or company. Maybe you
notice that particular program is out of date. Chances are, many other
PC’s have the exact same problem. Does a staff member or co-worker
find a form or procedure to be useless or redundant? This is probably
true for others, as well.
So, what started out as a narrow focused zoom in has suddenly provided
you with a sweeping view of the issues in your company. You might have
thought that you were thinking about one small problem, but I find that
the small problems are usually big problems in disguise. Like scientists
who can see the similarities between water swirling down a drain, a
hurricane and a solar system, one thought leads to another and another
Take it home
As you can probably tell, zooming in doesn’t only apply to your
work in the office. While you may try to leave your work at the office,
this is one aspect you could, and should apply at home, too.
One place to start is with a home utility bill – telephone bills
are great for this. Examine the bill carefully, noting every tax, every
fee, every line item. I can almost guarantee that you will run into
something you do not understand – a fee for some oddly named service,
additional costs that should have been free -- and more. If you can’t
understand what a fee is for, call your company and find out. You will
be amazed how many times you find errors, omissions and outright mistakes.
Even worse, you will need to check your bills regularly. You have to
remember to zoom in or you will miss many of these errors.
Now, take your newfound magnifying lens to other aspects of your life.
What services or products are you paying for that you don’t really
use? Do you have magazines that continue to pile up even though you
never find time to read them? How about satellite television you never
watch anymore? There are hundreds of little problems just like this
waiting for your attention.
Just as before, though, zooming in on one specific area can lead to
major benefits throughout your work and your life. Once you identify
problems in your home life, many of these will translate to your work
life, as well. Even more, similar problems can have much grander consequences
when multiplied by the number of workers you have. One telephone line
with extra charges is bad enough, but 100 lines with extra charges can
threaten your bottom line.
We all need good balance between seeing the big picture and inspecting
the details. Each aspect is equally important and each informs the other.
Big problems lead you to small issues and small issues lead you to the
big. Don’t forget to zoom in on occasion to make the best use
of all the tools at your disposal.