EB108 - Attention to Details © Question:   Why are people so reluctant to focus on the details of their work?  When people say “the devil is in the details,” don’t they mean we should work harder and focus on the details to avoid trouble?

Larry:  Yes, that’s what it means to most folks.  Even so, you're right.  There is reluctance among most people to focus on details.  Some people may think it is too menial, like sitting in the dusty corner of a back office making sure the numbers match on a shipping list.  But I think of it more positively. I believe “the gold is in the details.”

I began my career in the Apollo program, which demanded accuracy and precision.  Because I worked for twelve engineers who trained me to dig for facts until I was confident of the right solution, I learned the value of fearlessly looking for the essential details.  That job also helped me realize that people could make good decisions in any profession if they had enough reliable information – in other words, the right details.  By applying this simple concept to all my business contacts, I was able to find the “Hot Button” that would motivate almost any customer.

It’s amazing how handling simple administrative duties for a customer can propel you into the next level of professional development.  Of course, it would depend upon who the customer might be.  But if your customer had been Philip Crosby, one of the greatest quality managers in history, you would have done well to pay attention to the details he thought were important.

By precisely identifying Phil’s requirements and respecting his time, I was able to pull deeply on his "Zero Defects" heart strings.  As a result, he became more than a friend and customer; he was a reliable mentor who never failed to take my call or give me time to meet with him. Because he was Philip Crosby, that relationship changed my life.  But all customers should be treated exactly the same way, with attention to the details they consider important.