One trait I am always looking for in people I hire for different roles in my organization, is the ability to quickly and effectively change focus.
It is very clear to me that to be a successful professional in today's challenging SaaS ecosystem, you got to have this ability and I am looking for that in their way of thinking as well as proven experience.
I don't have a fancy name for this and some might think it is multi-tasking or context switching but it is actually not. If multi-tasking is the ability to move horizontally across multiple domains and deal with them at the same time or in rapid pace, I am talking about the ability to zoom-in and zoom-out in a specific domain.
Let's take sales as an example. An Enterprise deal or partnership, is built out of dozens and sometimes hundreds of encounters and communications, some are tactical, some are more strategic. From creating and forming a win-win business model for both sides, all the way to discussing a single red-line in the agreement. From pitching value proposition to C-levels, all the way to answer 300-questions long RFP. One side is very high-level in its focus and the other is super tactical. Both are important and needed in order to get things done. Seasoned sales people have the ability to move on the wide-angle lens quickly and effectively, change focus in their state of mind as well as their actions and.
The complex environment today in tech companies, their products and their audience, requires that skill. From certain levels in the organization, professionals cannot just be big-picture person or tactical work person, they have to be both, in their domain of expertise.
The same is relevant for Product Management. The tech and market environment is becoming more and more complex and successful PMs need to constantly change their focus from addressing tactical issues to see the big picture. Zooming in and out multiple times a day without even realizing that is what they are doing.
You would think that executives are excluded from this concept but to me it is actually becoming more and important the more you climb up in the roles ladder. Managers naturally need to see bigger pictures but they are constantly involved in tactical issues. Whether you are a CTO who now needs to get involved in a critical customer-effecting bug, a CRO who is pulled-in to a deal to get it over the finish-line, or a COO who is diving into the details of day-to-day operations in order to optimize them.
What is the big challenge in this? Why this is a skill to develop? In my experience, both my own and observing others, it is all about timing and attention. It is easy or may I even say the natural behavior, to stay in one side of the axis. To be sucked into the details of a problem by the team you are working with and try to solve it yourself. Or on the other hand, it is also natural to stay focused on the strategic aspects of things without rolling-up your sleeves and getting dirty. A savvy professional will pay attention to the situation and will know when they need to change focus in order to get things done.