Casablanca - Are we spotting the most important details at the right time to make the most effective decisions? Is our ability to pay attention to the most impactful details can be reinforced if we make the right effort? Do we need to train ourselves to pay attention to the details when making decisions?
Casablanca – Are we spotting the most important details at the right time to make the most effective decisions? Is our ability to pay attention to the most impactful details can be reinforced if we make the right effort? Do we need to train ourselves to pay attention to the details when making decisions?
Those are very frequent questions that we start asking ourselves especially when we make inappropriate decisions and when we are disappointed with regards to the outcome of such decisions. We certainly tend to blame our ability to spot that very little detail that can make the difference at the right time. This is where the ‘devil’ starts to be identified to the ‘details’ that we may have ignored unintentionally and that start having an increasingly unexpected, negative or even disruptive impact on the situation where we are.
Paying attention to the details of our environment may seem a rational process when analysing a situation or making decisions. We always think that if we have more time and resources, we would better figure out the details that matter and get them sorted by priority and risk of impact on our goals; then react accordingly.
Unfortunately, and in the majority of daily situations, we never have time to list all the risks vs details before making decisions. In addition, we tend to use shortcuts, emotions, stereotypes, and similarities instead of rational judgments. Those are the main pitfall in managing the details and not our ability to spot such details. In fact, when facing a problem or a decision-making situation, we tend to simplify its complexity by finding similar situations in our past experience, and try to reproduce how we reacted without going into analysing and questioning how similar the situation we are in compared with what faced before.
In other cases, we may tend to see how other people reacted in similar situation, and then imitate them partially or completely. When doing so, comparison is based on emotions that will certainly make our interpretation of similarities very hazardous. It is sure that, based on our progressive learning experience, we may be more accurate in finding similarities and/or conclusions to be able to make fast decisions. However, it is not only a question of experience, but it is also an emotional misjudgement that may cause a very biased interpretation of the situation causing that the scoring the importance of each detail is not the same.
In the context of large projects and complex situations, another pitfall in managing details is the way we look at our stakeholders contribution to our objectives. Stakeholders may be our project team members, subcontractors, family members or partners depending on whether we are in a personal or a professional situation. Our expectations from those stakeholders are usually in terms of the work outcome quality, and we even rely on them to look on the details on our behalf.
Without going into questioning each stakeholder’s honesty and commitment to quality, we need to recognize that any lack of communication around expectations will certainly result in substantial misunderstanding of the risks behind the details each one is handling. We cannot take as given the fact that our partners and stakeholders should be as perfectionist as we are. Then, expectations should always be defined, revised, and promoted clearly throughout any project lifecycle. In addition, stakeholders trustworthiness should also be assessed through their hidden agendas or the quality of their judgment as those may impact the interpretation of the level of details they are interested to look at and report during the decision making process.
Debating whether the details-oriented human ability is an innate or an acquired characteristic may also be an interesting subject that worth addressing. Avoiding the ‘devil’ when managing the details is a question of avoiding the pitfalls of emotions, shortcuts, communication, and trustworthiness. We cannot always blame our ability to spot the most important details in the right time, while we do not pay attention to avoiding such pitfalls.