哈佛商學院教授羅莎貝絲．摩斯．肯特（Rosabeth Moss Kanter），解釋為什麼高階主管必須不斷同時考慮大局和細節。更多內容請見〈見樹又見林的領導人〉。
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor, explains why executives must constantly consider both the big picture and the details. For more, read "Zoom In, Zoom Out."
Katherine Bell: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast. I'm Katherine Bell. I'm here today with Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and leading change. She's a regular columnist and blogger for Harvard Business Review and the author of the recent article Zoom In, Zoom Out in our March issue. Thanks so much for being with us today.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: My pleasure.
Katherine Bell: So you've defined a critical new skill for business leaders, the ability to zoom in and zoom out effectively. Tell us what you mean by that.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: This is another way of thinking about strategic thinking, but that strategic thinking has to be flexible. It has to work at several levels. You have to be able to stand back to see the context, the big picture, while moving in to see some details. But make sure that flexibly you're moving across the spectrum.
I love the zoom button on cameras, on my phone, on photos. And I thought, that's really a perfect metaphor. I'm always playing with it. I'm saying, what's in the background and how can I see that but also how can I find the one area that looks like it might be a point for action. And I realize that we need that flexible dynamic capability in order to think strategically and move the action along in any organization or in our lives.
Katherine Bell: So are there certain situations in which it's really important to be either zoomed in or zoomed out, situations that we can start to recognize? Or is it that basically any scenario or any decision can really benefit from both perspectives?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Well I think there should be some flexible looking at both ends of the spectrum in any situation. I'm not sure that there is that much virtue to staying close in and close to the details. In fact, there are a lot of problems that occur if you're too close in.
First of all, you see yourself too big reflected back. So the people that zoom in and get stuck there tend to personalize things. They tend to begin to look at the ways in which they're being treated. They don't see the context, they don't see alternatives. And they also can't put things in a time perspective to move across time to see what they're really trying to achieve. So I really don't see too many virtues there.
On the other hand, that is a realm in which some people operate by personal relationships, trading of favors, and so forth. Zooming out-- I think that's a place where the virtues of staying with the big picture can really help you, particularly during difficult or trouble times where you need to take action, but there are so many things that happened that appear to be either a personal attack or a glitch or a problem.
I have my famous Kanter's law, everything can look like a failure in the middle. But when you're able to zoom out, you always find the underlying principles, the enduring truths, what's truly the goal, the strategy. Now, of course, if you just stay stuck there, that's also a problem because you might not see a new emerging phenomenon. So you've got to keep going back to look at the details from time to time. But I think standing back to see the big picture is good for all of us.
Katherine Bell: So is it right to say that it's not enough to have this work in an organizational level or at a team level so that some people are responsible for thinking about the big picture while other people take care of the details?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: I think what happens then, if people aren't always flexible and able to understand one another, they talk past each other. So we've all been in meetings like that where there's one person who immediately wants to generalize, make it abstract, and doesn't really pay attention to what the particular situation is. There are other people at the zoom in or the close in side, who immediately start talking only about details. They start telling stories, they have personal anecdotes, and they never get the strategy so they're talking past one another.
So I think we do have to encourage people to have both capabilities. But I think we can also encourage leaders in those meetings to say, well let's zoom in and look at some of the details. But now let's zoom out and let's see the big picture, let's put those together, let's see what else is in the neighborhood, let's look at alternatives. And that can really help. So I don't think you can balance it. I think you really need to have people learn how to do both things.
Katherine Bell: I think most of us tend to think of ourselves as more big picture people or more detail- oriented people. What can we do to learn to be better at that process of zooming in and zooming out?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: I'll start with the close in people because this-- close in, again means taking it too personally, trying to work through personal relationships. If there's a new opportunity, a close in person is going to say, who do I know and start looking at their own network. So they would need to be encouraged to think of this as a more general task which is how do I find the people that might be helpful not who do I know. So you can begin some mental tricks that help you do that.
And if you're looking at communications and saying, gee, I'm left out or I'm insulted, there is, again, a mental trick where you say I'm not going to get insulted, I'm not going to get upset. I or the person doing it are first going to ask, what's at stake here, why is this happening. And if you ask why is this happening, if you ask why questions all the time, then it's a lot easier to be able to stand back and put it in perspective.
It's very therapeutic because people who zoom in too much, who are close in, are often the people who may have a lot of talent and skills. But they're bypassed for promotion. This is why I am beginning to think this capability is so important if we want leaders who thinks strategically.
Katherine Bell: If you as a leader need to be able to grasp the big picture, the strategic picture, and also the details in this personally-focused level of things, how do you avoid information overload and just being overwhelmed?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: We never said leadership was easy. So it does take talented people who can juggle a lot of things. You say to yourself, I've got to look in to see the details. But then I have to say, which of these are important. And you only know that importance when you zoom out again and say, what's the goal, what are the principles, what's the territory, what else is in the neighborhood. And so when you have the combination, it makes it easier to sort out priorities.
Because too many details -- It's like looking at a map. I also love zooming in and zooming out every time on Google Maps or MapQuest because you want to know the specific destination and exactly what around it. But then you want to stand back and ask yourself, are there other routes? How do I see it in full perspective? And that helps you with overload so then you can pick the right route to the destination and let go of a lot of the other details.
Katherine Bell: So in the article, you mentioned a gender dimension to this. There's a stereotype of women tending to be more zoomed in and men tending to be more zoomed out. Can you talk just briefly about how that plays out?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Well the gender dimension came to mind because there's a famous finding that women do very well on performance appraisals in terms of all 21st century leadership skills, except vision. And so I started thinking about that in this context, too, because vision is the ultimate zooming out, finding the direction, looking at the big map, looking at the big picture.
And I ask myself, so why is it. And I thought the roles, both in personal life and in organizations that, for so many years were the traditional stereotypical roles do differentiate by gender because women are often put in roles where they are rewarded for looking at the details. I found this many years ago.
Even women in executive roles are in positions that are a little bit more transactional, where they're expected to have the perfect financial report. We're seeing a lot of women as CFOs but we're seeing more women in details-oriented jobs, even at the top, than we are in the vision getting up and declaring here's a new direction we're all going to march toward. So I began to think this was a role issue.
And if we are aware of that, we could help provide a little equalization. This model has a great deal of applicability to leadership development and could help people get out of their comfort zone or stick with the skills that are rewarded and, instead, learn to be much more flexible and move up and down that scale. That button is so easy. You can so easily look at various levels through digital equipment. And I thought, our minds can do that, too.
Katherine Bell: Thanks so much for being with us today, Rosabeth. I'm Katherine Bell. This has been the HBR IdeaCast. For the article, Zoom in, Zoom out, and four more, please go to hbr.org..