Success is in the details
August 19, 2010
- no detail is too small
- Details help us to make solid decisions
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem
Pop quiz: which is more important, the "big picture," or the fine details'
The answer: while it's important to be able to see the big picture, success is most often determined by the fine details.
This applies to a business, project, sport or any other activity.
We often spend a lot of energy on the big picture - going through the motions of holding the meetings, making the phone calls and completing the tasks necessary to ensure an event is completed by its deadline.
Often, however, the sum of the little decisions and the amount of time spent thinking about the minutiae can be just as important as the meetings and phone calls in determining the level of success of a project. In business, no detail is too small.
This is especially true for those of us who are working with limited resources - personnel, time, supplies and money. Using those resources with the utmost efficiency ensures we get the most "bang for the buck."
Details help us to make solid decisions.
They help us to foresee possible problems so that we can address them in advance. They give us the opportunity to better see alternatives.
It's not always easy to be detail oriented. Attention to detail relies on a number of mental processes working together at one time (attention, concentration, verbal and written memory, organizational ability, etc.). How do you become more detail oriented'
Write everything down. Make lists. Revise and rewrite. Examine all options. Ask questions (especially "why'") and weigh the answers. Think about the details, and then think about them some more.
Being detail oriented means not just looking at a request and asking ourselves whether or not we can meet it, but also whether the request has complete information.
Whether it is a legitimate request that includes any documents, historical notes or other information important to verify the purpose of the request.
It's very important, as often as possible, that you let others in on your project or request.
The more "eyes" on a project, the more likely all the necessary angles will be covered. It also means more potential problems will be caught early on and corrected.
You may feel that you're perfectly capable of handling most projects, including the fine details, on your own. Be honest with yourself and admit when you need help.
There's no embarrassment in asking for assistance; however, there could be a great deal of humiliation if a project isn't as successful as it could have been because you kept it to yourself.
Even if you strive to be ultra-precise in all that you do, there are going to be times when you are tired, ill, distracted or otherwise not on top of your game.
Find knowledgeable people to help you and be open to opinions, comments and suggestions.
When you think you're finished, go back and look over what you've done. If you don't review your work, you may not find out until negative consequences fly that you made mistakes.
When thinking of the importance of details, think no further than many of you are already contemplating ... the job rAfAsumAfA.
This is an extremely important document - it represents you to potential employers, thus the quality of the rAfAsumAfA can affect your possible future quality of life. But do you have typos or misspellings in your rAfAsumAfA'
Have you asked others to look at your rAfAsumAfA to see if they find errors' Have you reviewed your rAfAsumAfA to ensure the work history and responsibilities listed are current and complete'
Do you have all the documents - transcripts, performance appraisals and other paperwork - required to substantiate your rAfAsumAfA' It's your awareness of these "little things" that could make the difference in whether or not you are considered for a position.
An important part of maintaining attention to detail is following up. While you may coordinate with others early on, it's important to maintain communication and to maintain awareness of changes or updates to the plan. Those changes and updates may require additional attention, as they can affect resources or affect the overall focus of the project. The more complicated a project or issue is, the more important it is to wrap your arms around the fine points.
While this column has addressed the importance of attention to detail, it's important, that you don't obsess or over-prioritize. The old adage, "You can't see the forest for the trees," has its merits, too.
Only you can determine whether or not you've dedicated an appropriate amount of thought to a project.
My intent isn't for you to laboriously ponder every request you receive, but to take the time with each project or request solely to think.
After all, to quote another adage, "it's the little things that will come back to bite you."