Everyone seems to say that the “Devil is in the Details” and for the most part, that’s true. What gets leaders into trouble is when the detail is so minute that the big pictures gets lost. Being detailed oriented is a valuable skill but it must be balanced by focusing on the right details.
Digging In Too Deep
Detail oriented people love digging in. They feel that the deeper they go, the better the result.
That’s true if your job is to ensure that a nuclear power plant won’t blow up or the safety of newborn children — be my guest and dig away.
Most of the time, that much detail is not necessary. It’s better to make a decision with the available data and move on.
Part of digging too deep is the eventual analysis paralysis. This hurts organizations and individuals by giving them excuses for not making decisions.
Once analysis paralysis sets in, it’s hard to break out of it. People become intwined in a vicious loop of second guessing, gathering more data and more analysis.
This cycle is unhealthily because it stagnates your group or organization. Again, life and death stuff, keep digging. Normal everyday stuff, make a decision and move on.
Not All Details Are Created Equal
Some details are not worth worrying about. If a detail has no material affect on your life, limb or property, do you really need to sweat it? I mean does it really matter the type of screw you use to fasten the housing together or the color of wire no one sees or maybe the degree of tilt on the font.
In some cases, yes, it does matter but most of the time, you can change it, if it does not work out. It’s much better to make educated guesses and make a decision, then to have a detail stalemate.
How Much is Too Much
Attention to detail is an important part of our life. We must pay attention to the things that matter and make educated guesses on the ones that don’t.
Some among us will find this offensive and wrong. Their argument will be that every detail is important and that you are just not detailed oriented enough.
If you are a leader, you have to make decisions on the information you have. Sometimes the details are fuzzy.
The people who raise the detailed oriented flag usually have complete control of their world. They can influence every detail. As a leader, it will be hard if not impossible, to do that.
Important Detail Criteria
All details are not created equal. As a leader, you need to focus on the ones that matter and leave the rest to your team or to educated guesses. Listed below are some criteria for important details:
Life and Limb: If you decision will impact the life and limb of someone, then get as much detail as you can.
Strategic Direction: Strategic decisions require thoughtful analysis and a keen awareness of the data available. Strategic direction is something that should not be changed on a whim, so details are important.
Important Business Deals: Any business deal where the future of your company is at stake should have every detail looked at. You can dig in too deep on ones that don’t matter but it’s better to air on the side of more detail than less.
Significant Advancements: Anytime your group or company makes a huge leap forward, the details matter. Dig in and figure out why the advancement was made.
Decision Magnitude: The bigger the decision, the more details required, especially if the decision is hard to reverse.
The Golden Detail Rule
When a decision is made that is hard to reverse and it has severe impact, then more details need to be sought.
As a leader, you will make decisions daily that affect some part of your organization. It’s important to realize that digging into too much detail can mire your organization into second guessing decisions and worthless work.
Just remember to make decisions with the details you have and move on.