ABCs for Managers Who Lead – Z is for Zoom (in or out)

       Photo Credit: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

When my son was three, a friend was pointing to different parts of a toy airplane and asking him what the parts of the airplane were for. When our friend pointed to the engine, my son said “That’s for zoom!”

The word “zoom” has to do with speed, yes, and also with going up and down. An airplane, for example, starts at ground level and soars to an altitude high above the ground.

When we are at “ground level,” we see what is right in front of us – the tasks, the people, the materials and equipment we need, the infrastructure, etc. What is important at this level is ensuring that we have what we need to be effective.

At ground level we determine our priorities, articulate the results we want to achieve, plan how we will achieve this results, and ensure that we have the human, infrastructure, material, and financial resources to implement our plan. We then implement the plan using the resources effectively and efficiently to succeed in achieving results.

In reality, when we “zoom in” we are using the practices of focusing, planning, organizing and implementing.. Please refer back to the blog posts that explore these practices. (F is for Focus, O is for Organize, and P is for Plan).

And, we need to have the flexibility to fly up to the sky, “zoom out,” in order to understand the broader perspective. There we imagine what’s possible – where the opportunities are, what possible directions we could go in to serve our clients/patients, and what our high level strategies might be. In addition, we look at how any one activity might fit into our vision and mission, who would benefit, what success might look like within this broad context and what challenges might lie ahead?

In fact, when we “zoom out” are using the practice of scanning. Please refer back to the blog S is for Scan.

People are motivated by conditions in the workplace that support them in feeling like important contributors to a greater purpose which, in turn, gives meaning to what they do. They also need to feel valued by the organization enough for managers to care about their mastery of what they do and they need a certain amount of autonomy in which to exercise their creativity and explore the boundaries of what is possible. Further, reinforcement in the form of feedback and support are necessary to keep the team focused, but it should be offered in recognition of positive contribution, expanding and supporting learning, and acknowledging the importance of new ideas/creativity.

The motivating conditions a manager must create are:

Zooming well

  1. Speed. Zooming in and zooming out needs to be done in rapid succession, in – out and back in. Zooming is an iterative process that must be done quickly to ensure that your decisions and ideas are valid at both ground level and within the broader scheme of objectives, strategies, and the cultural and political environment.
  2. Flexibility. It is not easy to hold two perspectives in your mind at once, but that is what zooming requires. The perspectives may not both be paramount in your mind at all times, but you must keep the two perspectives active, as you acknowledge the iterative nature of zooming.
  3. Information and knowledge. You need to know the details at the ground level and the concepts and big picture situation at the higher levels. If you don’t have the knowledge, information, and data you need at the moment, it is important to know where to find them and seek them out before making decisions. Keep your eyes and ears open.

See for yourself

Powers of Ten – Ultimate Zoom (micro-macro – Imax combined)
Fabulous zoom in and zoom out photographic illustrations of earth.

Guy Uses Camera to Zoom in on Moon
You get a very different picture when you view things up close.

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