NOW AVAILABLE The draft of my book on Organizational Intelligence is now available on LeanPub Please support this development by subscribing and commenting. Thanks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Selling the Big Picture

In my previous post, I asked what Getting the Big Picture meant, and what was it dependent upon. In this post, I shall explore the relationship between the people who "get" the bigger picture and the people who (for whatever reason) "don't get it".


Some people think that the difficulty of "getting" the bigger picture is due to a kind of complexity. So to communicate with a broader audience, "we" have to hide the complexity from "them". But does this encourage "them" to undervalue the bigger picture? At what point does a simplistic "big picture" become merely a meaningless and content-free abstraction?

@enectoux people are afraid of complexity. Show EA is NOT complex and you'll get them understand and calm down.
@richardveryard But show people that EA is NOT complex and they'll think they can do it themselves.
@pauljansen But EA is (all) about complexity. If not, it probably is not EA but f.i. Systems Engeneering
@enectoux EAs mission is to deal w/ this complexity, not to throw it in the face of their customers. Otherwise you are useless
@enectoux Look a Wimbledon tennis game, doesn't It seem easy for you? Do you thinking you'll ever be able to return Nadal's service?


But there is a deeper reason for my being uncomfortable about the relationship between those who "get it" and those who don't. What kind of authority does "getting the bigger picture" bestow? How do those who get the bigger picture avoid conveying a sense of we-know-best superiority over those whom they are trying to influence?

@pauljansen EA is about Servant Leadership and keeping the right, effective balance between serving and leading
@MartinHowittEA shouldn't be about being superior. there's no long-term model there. We need to focus on helping others realise potential

It is important to remember that even if a lens appears to provide a "bigger picture", this picture is never the only possible one, and should never be regarded as uniquely authoritative. Systems leadership doesn't mean pushing people into accepting the consequences of a picture they don't understand, it means working with them to create a meaningful, rich and well-grounded picture against which to steer a robust course of action.


  1. There are two key principles for a big picture:

    1) It must reflect the real picture, and not be a meaningless abstraction

    2) It should communicate the answer to the majority, not the minority (who probably already "get it" without the picture).

    A big picture that says so little it can be interpreted as required by the reader is as useless as one that fails to communicate to all but the most informed.

    My preference is for a big picture that encompasses the breadth of the architecture with the detail embedded for those who wish or need to delve deeper.

    Jon H Ayre
    The Enterprising Architect

  2. Maybe, as Jon points out, the people who "get it" don't actually need the picture. Brilliant paradox!