Donna Fitzgerald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Donna Fitzgerald
Research Vice President
5 years at Gartner
31 years IT industry

Donna Fitzgerald focuses her research on strategies and approaches for using program and portfolio management as a way to create unique business value. Read Full Bio

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Make One Friday a Month Your “Forest for the Trees” Day

by Donna Fitzgerald  |  August 5, 2011  |  1 Comment

I’m a big believer that no matter what job we’re in we need to spend some time looking at the big picture. It keeps us honest and it keeps us from making silly mistakes. The problem is when we are surrounded by trees it’s hard to see anything that isn’t right in front of us.

Years ago, I used to schedule 2 days a month to work from home with the intention of actually thinking about what was going on around me and making sure that I understood the bigger picture (how my boss was looking at things, how things might be affecting my staff, what the ultimate outcome would be of all the work we were busy doing, etc). I also tried to read divergent material to make sure my world view didn’t get too insular. The truth is that while I scheduled 2 days a month I only actually took about 1 day every two months, but even that level of reflection proved valuable.

Things have changed for many of us since we went into an office every day. Working from home can make the work day expand to something approaching 24/7. It can also make it much harder to gain the altitude necessary to see the big picture. Twitter helps with the alternative perspectives if we are careful to follow the right mix of people. But we still need to take time to think.

I’d like to suggest that everyone designate at least one Friday a month to getting out of your normal work-a-day mentality and think about what you and your team members are actually accomplishing. What value are you really delivering for all your hard work? Who are you making happy? Then add a triple loop learning concept to your reflections. Based on the way you are working today what culture and ultimate outcomes are you building for tomorrow?

It might take a couple of months to get the hang of building the big picture but I have always found the process a valuable one when I’ve taken the time to do it. I often discover that there’s a risk lurking in the dark corner of possibility that if I get on it now I can keep it from ever happening. I have also realized that a class of work that we’ve done no longer needs as much time and energy as it did in the past and that we should refocus our priorities to something that is of much higher value now. I also found that taking this time made me a much better leader, if for no other reason than my team knew they could trust me to keep them safe from things they didn’t have time to see themselves because they were so busy doing the work we paid them to do.

I’d be interested to hear how what approach others use to accomplish the same thing. Also if you decide to spend a Fridays getting a big picture view I’d love to hear how that pays off for you as well.

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