You've heard the sayings:
Can't see the forest for the trees
Can't see the trees for the forest
The sayings relate to whether we focus too much on the big picture (forest) or the minutia (trees). I would like to offer a third perspective.
Can't see the forest or the trees for the FOG.
Fog gets in many people's way.
- The fog of overwhelm
- The fog of ambiguity
- The fog of complexity
- The fog of lack of vision creep
- The fog of matrices (a type of complexity)
- The fog of stress
- The fog of mucky muck
I work with a lot of people who can neither zoom in nor zoom out because their brains are flitting like a blind bee on crack (interesting visual, eh?). Do I go for the nectar, do I service my queen, do I avoid the bee eating lizard to my right, do I mate and then die, or do I soar like Jonathon Livingston Seagull Chicken in defiance of my kind?
Good news and bad news about fog:
Good news - Fog lifts. Fog burns off. Fog is not permanent.
Bad news - Thick fog is tough to see through. Fog comes when systems are not in alignment. Fog blankets and dampens the forest, tress, and bees.
A couple side notes:
1. Overwhelm is not real - it is in your head and you can instantly get rid of it. Two people in the same circumstances will react differently. One may feel overwhelm, the other might not feel overwhelm at all. Which one are you? I have days of fake overwhelm, but I can defenestrate it as soon as I acknowledge it.
2. Ambiguity is stuff we think we should know but don't know. So much of what we think of as ambiguity is NOT stuff we ought to know or can know, it's just stuff we don't know. That's not ambiguity, it's just not knowing. Sometimes we suffer from feelings of ambiguity when we would be better off being OK with not knowing. Often it's none of our business!
3. Golden rule #1 of organizations - flat and simple need to be positively correlated - the flatter your organization, the simpler it ought to be. I have seen people get way too sophisticated with how projects and work gets assigned in very flat teams and organizations.
You might need help navigating away from the fog. Have you ever been at a coast and watched fog roll in and then burn off? Details and definition fades away then slowly comes back. To pull out of your fog, you need to see both the trees and the forest more clearly. Step back and acts like a cartographer - make a map. Draw the shapes, the roads, the detail. See it, then organize it and you will begin to feel much better.
You can burn away the fog.