The Devil is in the detail

Over the past few weeks it’s really come home to me how vitally important it is to ensure that we all focus on the detail. I love to hear how some people tell me that they don’t want the detail; after all, they’re ‘big picture’, ‘top level’, ‘blue-sky’ kinda people who ‘leave the detail to others’… hmmm.

Well, here’s a newsflash folks; it’s all detail. Get over yourself!

No matter how big your project is, no matter what your plan might be for world-domination, the fact remains that every major achievement is made up of lots of detail that all works together. Try telling an Olympic athlete that it won’t really matter if their shoelaces snap five metres from the line, or tell the airline pilot that a few degrees North will still get him home. I mentioned to Nico Rosberg just the other day that he really ought to make sure all his wheelnuts were tightened properly before leaving the pit lane… but the message obviously didn’t get through!


So what’s this fascination with the ‘big picture’ and why are so many people still looking to find someone to pick up on the small details that will make their business work? Well, personally I think a lot of it has to do with focus. Focus requires energy, commitment, dedication, time, resources, and other things that we all seem to have in very short supply. Still, the fact remains that if you’ve got a handle on the detail in your business you’ll know what’s going on. If you want to be the Captain of your own ship then this sounds like a good idea. It doesn’t mean you need to become obsessed and it doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do it all yourself. It just means you need the right level of awareness of the detail that will make all the difference.


I also have a sneaking suspicion that too many of us also love the idea of having a grand view (from the top) of our business and believe that it’s beneath us to actually get our hands dirty. There are plenty of examples of top-level CEOs who have gone ‘back to the floor’ and have come away with a radically improved view of what their business is actually all about; what the rest of the team get to deal with every single day. The people at the top get paid the big bucks for several reasons, responsibility, experience, know-how but also because it’s their job to know what’s happening day to day. This means filtering the information then using it properly.


Likewise there are also some great examples of highly successful people who keep a very close eye on everything that matters. Finance must be one of the most important of these. Oprah Winfrey is renowned for keeping extreme control on the budgets in her organisation; she cuts out waste and knows where her money is being spent. Do you know what your business expense accounts are being used for today?!


So, my recommendation is to start with the detail. Yes, the big picture and the vision are all vitally important but never lose sight of the component parts that really make your business tick; that includes your people and of course your customers!

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