Entrepreneur’s Notebook

Look at the big picture, not the pieces.

By Hank Moore, Corporate Strategist

How organizations start out and what they become are decidedly different concepts. Mistakes, niche orientation, and lack of planning lead businesses to failure. Like trees, most organizations seemingly look the same…yet, they can shed leaves, wither, and die while nobody notices.

That’s why it’s crucial to understand the Big Picture. Over 20 years of reorganizing companies in crisis (from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations to the public sector), I developed The Business Tree, which views the whole of the organization, then the parts and back to the sum.

The Business Tree has seven major parts: five branches, a trunk, and the base:

            Branch 1: The business you’re in (10 percent)

            Branch 2: Running the business (14 percent)

            Branch 3: Financial (10 percent)

            Branch 4: People (28 percent)

            Branch 5: Business development (23 percent)

            Category 6 (trunk): Body of Knowledge (8 percent)

            Category 7 (roots): The Big Picture (7 percent)

Most businesses only get as far as Branch 3. That 34 percent consumes 100 percent of their attention. By neglecting the two major branches, the trunk, and the roots, their Business Tree becomes lopsided and dies an early death.

Small and new companies, in these troubled times, are searching for answers. Sadly, the easy answers are not the ones that holistically address the company and its long-term needs.

The plethora of seminars, training, and writings on the market do not emphasize Big Picture thinking. Most everything you read gives the implication that one of these micro-management topics is the be-all, end-all panacea to business problems:

  • Computer technology, sub-set of Branch 2
  • Financial planning and investments, sub-sets of Branch 3
  • Human resources and training, sub-sets of Branch 4
  • Sales and marketing, sub-sets of Branch 5

Benefit from Change

Pressures accelerate for companies to stay in operation, become competitive, keep ahead of the marketplace, and perform quality work. Businesses of all sizes are besieged with opportunities, competing information sources, and large amounts of uncertainty.

Executives are not prepared to handle challenges of the moment…much less to begin developing Big Picture thinking. Seasoned executives face burnout daily. Much of the workforce is in transition, with unclear anchoring of where they’ve been and where they could head. Young and mid-level workers do not really know what it takes to succeed long-term and are, for the most part, impaired from optimum achievement.

Research shows that change is 90 percent beneficial. So why do people fear what is most in their best interest? Learn how to control change, rather than fear it.

Avoid False Gods and Facades

Setting up a Website doesn’t transform your business. That mindset unfairly makes technology the scapegoat for not doing proper planning or holistically growing the business. The same is true for other “look-good” projects that keep the company from looking at the root causes of problems and, thus, opportunities to change and succeed.

Remediate the High Costs of Band-Aid Surgery

Each year, one-third of the U.S. Gross National Product goes toward cleaning up problems, damages, and otherwise high costs of doing either nothing or doing the wrong things.

On the average, it costs six times the investment of preventive strategies to correct business problems (compounded per annum and exponentially increasing each year). In some industries, the figure is as high as 30 times…six is the mean average.

Human beings as we are, none of us do everything perfectly on the front end. There is always a learning curve. Research shows that we learn three times more from failures than from successes. The mark of a quality organization is how it corrects mistakes and prevents them from recurring.

Running a profitable and efficient organization means effectively remediating damage before it accrues. Processes and methodologies for researching, planning, executing, and benchmarking activities will reduce that pile of costly coins from stacking up.

Plan and Benchmark

There is a process to taking planning and quality management from the esoteric and into daily practice. Doing nothing becomes a way of life. It’s amazing how many individuals and companies live with their heads in the sand. Never mind planning for tomorrow…we’ll just deal with problems as they occur. This mindset, of course, invites and tends to multiply trouble.


Learning and growing professionally pre-empts burnout. As mentioned above, we learn three times more from failure than success.

I have mentored many top executives over the years. All agreed that no road map was laid out for them. Executives amassed knowledge “in the streets,” through non-traditional sources. Few lessons made sense at the time and, thus, did not sink in. When repackaged years later as mentoring and Executive Think Tanks (which I conduct), executives vigorously enjoyed the rediscovery process. The previously overlooked became sage wisdom. Knowledge they were not ready to receive before became crystal clear in later times.

Concluding Recommendations

Develop a strategic plan for your company and yourself. Participate in think tanks. Mentor others, and reconnect with those you admire. Invest in the right consultants. Commit to a quality improvement program. View your company as part of a career body of work, not just a present job.

Even in the smallest organization, it is crucial to encompass the elements that will grow the company and assure success. These include grooming emerging executives, the new international workplace, multicultural diversity, teambuilding, executive development, turning every member of the company into a profit center, corporate imaging, and fostering the vision.

No business can exist in a vacuum. Each must interact with the outside world, predict the trends, and master front-burner issues affecting the climate and opportunities in which they function. This includes stimulating “outside-the-box” thinking, building customer coalitions, and distinguishing your company from the pack.

A regular contributor to www.trainingmag.com, Hank Moore has advised 5,000-plus client organizations worldwide (including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations). He guides companies through growth strategies, visioning, strategic planning, executive leadership development, Futurism, and Big Picture issues that profoundly affect the business climate. Moore conducts company evaluations, creates the big ideas, and anchors the enterprise to its next tier. The Business Tree is his trademarked approach to growing, strengthening, and evolving business, while mastering change. His current book is “The Business Tree,” published by Career Press. Moore also speaks at conferences and facilitates corporate retreats on strategy. He has advised two U.S. Presidents and spoken at five Economic Summits. To read his complete biography, visit


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