Seeing the big picture

As the story goes that some masons were working on a project and a passerby asked the first one: “What are you doing?” The reply was: “Are you blind? Can’t you see that I’m placing bricks” The same question was taken to the second one and he had some clarity and thus replied: “I’m making a wall”. Still not sure so as what is going on, the stranger took the question to third mason and the reply was: “I’m making the front wall of National museum where work from renowned artists will be displayed”. This guy had the complete picture and though he’ll still be placing bricks but with the vision of what the final outcome will be.

Have you seen team members on software project where they are doing some basic work like fixing Defects or executing test plans (let’s call them ‘placing bricks’) but they don’t know the whole story? How many of them you think have the vision comparable to the third mason?

One way of forcing the team to think about the big picture is to introduce Systems Thinking approach. The best and long way is to have them read Jerry Weinberg’s excellent book on this subject ‘Introduction to General Systems Thinking’ and it can change the way you see the world. The short way is to introduce this holistic view of our world and ask around how it relates to the Software we work on, the impact it will have on our organization, the community that it serves and eventually the social impacts of it:


In a recent discussion with my fellow testers, I introduced this picture and asked if they can relate to their work with it. And believe me; we had a very productive discussion. For example, one of the projects that we have is a solution for Mechanical Equipment design which sounds quite boring, right? But how about that equipment is used in chocolate factories and who knows the next ‘Mars’ or ‘Dairy Milk’ I’ll pick from store is coming from the same factory. Wow, you know I’m making those chocolates better by working on my software 🙂

Another interesting way could be listening to this beautiful golden Hindi song ‘oh re taal milay nadi kay jal say’ which translates to: “the spring of water flows into the stream, the stream flows into the river and the river flows into the sea. And no one knows where the water of sea flows to?”

Do you think that team members need to have this big picture view? And I’ll be very glad to know so as if you have introduced some creative ways to achieve it?


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8 responses to “Seeing the big picture”

  1. Raza Ul Haq Akif (@RazaUlHaqAkif) says :

    Sadly, most of the team members do not analyze the big picture of their work. How their work can improve the world better and the impact of their work on the society. This requires, certain level of understanding of work they are doing, obviously a thought process and realization of importance.

    If one can understand the importance of what he is doing he will always improve his work. In most of the companies, when you start a new project, you are directed to develop a system and test a system with these set of requirements. The important thing which is missing in all is, nobody tells you the importance of system and the work you are doing.

    I think, the way managers present project to team depicts or calculates the importance of the project. One can present it through stories in the form of 3D animations but this must have a strong link with real life.


  2. Masroor says :

    yes Majad bhai. team must be in full view of the big picture. however what I’ve noticed is that generally our culture is oriented more toward “need to know basis”. I don’t know what is the reason for this but generally too much questions and demands to know more are seen with skepticism.


    • majd says :

      Thanks Masroor for your comments and you are right that concepts like these exist. Let’s work together to build a culture where asking questions is seen as a good sign specially the questions that clear up the big picture.


  3. Salmaan says :

    Definitely there will be lot of difference. The managers or the team leaders should encourage their brick placers to produce the positive results.
    I guess this could be done by crediting and encouraging and make the every brick placer realize his importance in making the “Front wall of National museum where work from renowned artists will be displayed”.
    Once brick placers(team members) are shown, in what they contributed and are credited “See! You were part of this huge project” (Front Wall of Museum, people come from far away to see this), they are gonna understand the big picture next time. 🙂


    • majd says :

      You are spot on Salmaan and appreciating team member’s work really help. After all any big project cannot be accomplished until contributions as little as placing bricks are not acknowledged. Thanks.


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