22 February 2011

The Big Picture: Clarity, Part 2

Let's be clear, folks. Clarity is a two-way street.

By that I mean that in order for communicators to be clear, messages need to have sufficient detail. But getting lost in specifics doesn't clarify. One also needs to paint a the big picture.

In other words, for learners and workers to understand their tasks and objectives, they need to see where it leads.

Too often I see people-- usually older ones who have never been managers-- complain that subordinates just don't do their job. That they ask too many questions, or "step outside their lane." Those subordinates likely want to do the job well, they just might not know quite what the task is.

That's because leaders sometimes zero in on only the specifics of the pertinent task. We're not Charlie Chaplin assembly line workers, here. Our jobs, whether as students, Soldiers, or really anything else, for that matter, are a bit more complex.

It helps, then, to know the context from which the task derived.

When looking at a single brush stroke, it is impossible to say whether it is good, or what it means. Only when it is considered in relation to the thousands of other strokes is its meaning made clear.

It's part of the phenomenon called, "executive control," a term coined by pioneers in the field of instructional design. It refers to learners' ability to better perform tasks when they know what will be required of them.

You're probably yawning by now. Hang in there.

Showing people a broader perspective seems simple, yet it's something that leaders easily neglect, because they think that subordinates shouldn't be bothered with things outside their control.

News flash: the world is outside anybody's control, but we should still understand it. Even the lowliest Soldier can handle the big picture.

Some pictures are bigger than others. My students don't need to know calculus while I'm teaching them algebra. But they might benefit from me telling them when they would be eligible for calculus, and which algebraic concepts are going to be most important down the road.

Soldiers, by the same token, don't need to know strategic plans. But they ought to realize how their task helps the company's, battalion's, and brigade's mission.

Okay, we're done. I hope that was clear.

1 comment:

  1. From Right to left: Swatts, Wade, Smith, Stowell, and Samudio. Did I win?