Do you ever find yourself buried deep in a project, overwhelmed by the details, and not knowing where to go next? Or other times, when you are working with a team, do you walk away feeling like it was 3 parts drama and 1 part progress? David Rock thinks he can solve both of those problems with more focused thinking.
In his book Quiet Leadership, Rock outlines five levels of thinking:
- Vision thinking: Thinking about the why. What outcomes and goals are you looking for?
- Planning: Outlining the big steps you need to take to get to those goals.
- Detail thinking: Looking specifically at what steps you need to take, in what order, with what tools. What information and people do you need in order to reach your goal?
- Problem Solving: Now that you are into the project, things aren’t going as planned. What resources do you need to overcome these obstacles?
- Drama thinking: Getting caught up in all the obstacles, and how everyone feels about them (and each other)? You’re stuck in Drama Thinking (and you need to get out of it)!
These levels of thinking are arranged from the most highly leveraged (more progress per minute) to the least leveraged. Rock recommends that you always start at the top of the list and work your way down.
So you’re buried deep in a project, you are overwhelmed with the details and your next step isn’t clear. Start with Vision — why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish? Once that’s clear, work on a plan, what are the phases, or big steps that you need to complete in order to get you there? Now, the details will make more sense…
Working with a team that’s all Drama and no progress? Here you really need to get clear on the goal, and stick to it! Why are we working together as a team? What are we trying to accomplish (that’s more important than all the drama)? With the outcome clear, start planning, then work through the details. Staying focused on the more highly leveraged thinking means that you won’t get caught up in the unproductive drama; you can keep your team more focused and productive instead.
What happens when a team member comes to you and they are “stuck”? They start rattling off all the details of all the challenges they are facing. (This could take a while!) Instead of sitting through all the details (and likely getting lost in them too) you could respond, “I’d like to be a useful sounding board for you. How can I best help you without getting into the details?” Keeping your conversation focused, again, on the Vision and Planning, will likely get you further as you reign in the discussion (and your team member’s thinking) to identify what they really need.
What do you think? Is this a useful framework for working with your team members? Could it help you, and your team, to stay more focused and productive? We want to hear about it!
Photo credit: wadem