I was in Africa last week (which is a great place to spend time, if you haven’t already done so).

One of the first things you notice in Africa is how big the sky is – it’s huge. Very big and very blue and seemingly endless… with vast horizons and extensive landscapes. You see things very differently in a place like that.

The detail becomes secondary to the beauty of the big picture.

It’s like when you go up to the top of a skyscraper… the Shard for example… and look out over the city. How different that experience is to being on the streets below. It’s more peaceful, you don’t have a million and one things invading your senses, you don’t have to deal with all the hustle and bustle… you can see the big picture in all its glory.

In business, we often get caught up ‘on the streets below’… we can’t see the beauty of the forest for the density of the trees… there’s no vast blue sky above us… only gathering clouds.

So when we plan… when we begin to look at systemising our business… we start small, we focus on the minutiae, and give all our attention to the near and the immediate.

Plans and systems are two-sides of the same coin.

They both help us to get where we want to be. They both make our life easier. And they both require an investment of our time to set them up effectively.

But they won’t be effective if we don’t start with the big picture, and ask ourselves:

What am I trying to achieve…and why?

Too often we plan for the short term with no clear idea of what our end game is… what success really looks like to us… where we’re going.

Too often we create systems to get us from A to B, without stopping to ask ourselves why we want to go to B… is it logical… is it serving our customer… would it be easier and more effective to go straight to C?

Knowing what we’re trying to achieve has to be our starting point, whether we are building plans or developing systems.

Start with that beautiful big picture…and work back to the detail from there.