We were working with a team responsible for a highly focused internal process that includes a customer-facing aspect. It's a high volume, high expectation, and deadline-focused role critical to the company's success. I noticed several references during our time together about how narrow and targeted the team's job is.


As in, "We've learned from experience that we don't want them drug into other tasks they might be able to contribute to if that causes performance and timeliness to suffer."


Makes sense.

I get that they need to be targeted in what they do.

The company positions the team in a tactical, critical path role that would suffer with needless distractions.

Based on the breadth of company and customer issues this team sees, however, you KNOW they are teeming with valuable insights. They could address process improvement ideas and ways to increase their impact. All this, even though I’d bet many people mistakenly see them as order takers.

Job Descriptions Don’t Define Innovation Potential

I asked them to engage in some strategic thinking about innovation opportunities for the company. They immediately played back the mantra about how FOCUSED and NARROW their roles are. They used that as a justification for opting out of strategic thinking.

I disabused them of the idea, however, that their narrow job descriptions were synonymous with narrow strategic thinking roles.

We had a quick conversation about generating ideas for the overall brand. I reminded them (in case no one ever had) that they had a HUGE brand role no matter how narrow everyone thinks they are as a group.

Hearing the interaction and ideas they were generating later when I circled back to them, it was clear that all they needed to dive into great strategic thinking was reassurance that it was OKAY for them to do it. After TALKING about them differently, they eagerly shared the strategic thinking insights they couldn't help but develop.

The Strategic Thinking Lesson?

A description of a job role isn't identical to the description of how an individual or group can contribute to solid, dynamic, and innovative strategic thinking.

That’s why leaders should be looking for strategic thinking THROUGHOUT their organizations!  - Mike Brown

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