Tree and Forest, which do you see? Tree and Forest, which is more important? You can’t have one without the other, but we tend to see one or the other. You may have heard the phrase someone”can’t see the forest for the trees”. What does it mean? It is an analogy of limited vision. Some people are so focused on the minute details – like the tree above -that they don’t see the bigger picture of the forest.

I have that issue sometimes with coworkers in another department at work. They have been trained to process according to a script that lays out a strict linear list of data to fill fields and are audited all the time which requires them to work methodically and make no assumptions (more about that in a future post). Any deviation from the norm causes confusion. If a provider record, for instance, needs to be terminated they need to know why -resignation, retirement, death, etc. If the record was just incorrect they have no quick reference for it. Rather than see that the record just needed to be fixed they fixated on why. Can’t see the forest – the big picture – for the trees – the details.

On the other hand, some people can’t see the trees for the forest. They are so focused on the big picture that they either don’t get the details right or they fail to see the importance of the details. This is especially true when dealing with people. They focus on programs rather than people. They see the crowd and not individuals. This also causes problems because just like trees people are different – no “one size fits all” program will be sufficient. Or people will group people into categories with broad characteristics applied to all members of the group. For years women have suffered under those assumptions -“women drivers”, “dumb blondes” or “overly emotional”. Other minorities have suffered the same. Even “media” is a caricature – and a lazy way to get out of confronting bad actors in the business.

So the next time you walk in the forest take time to not only survey the beautiful tapestry but also get up and personal with the different specimens you see there. And when you are in a crowd take a minute to dial down from the whole to look at the variety of individuals there – and maybe talk to a few, reach out the help if you can. We need both tree and forest.