Dan Maxwell
November 29, 2016

d-is-for-detail-orientedMost agree, detail matters.  But some (typically managers) are accused of overlooking how much detail is involved, and others (front line workers) are said to get lost in it all – never seeing the forest for the trees.

If they fail to understand the other’s perspective, they end up in conflict and their otherwise complementary efforts are spent on defending their own view.

For example, a company has decided to purchase new software. Right away, staff are concerned about specifics. How will it work? Have they considered this or thought about that? Will there be training?

Management is focused on immediate rollout for greater time savings and productivity.

Both kinds of detail – large and small – are important.

Without upgrades, departments fall behind. If new applications are poorly developed, users only get busier.

Front line workers (administrators, operators and service providers) view detail as key to quality work, accurate results, and reliable service. They take pride in being accurate, doing things well, and developing expertise.  To them, every detail matters – all the time.

In contrast, managers say: “It’s the right details that matter.” From their perspective there are a number of details to consider – but only one or two are really important.  If those are addressed, the rest fall into place.  It’s a matter of priority; cause and effect.

Differences in how detail matters comes from Detail Orientation.

High D’s gather all relevant information before they begin. Once under way, they consistently “measure twice” to get it right and double check to catch mistakes.  And they follow through.  It’s all part of being organized and doing a good job.

So they have a hard time understanding how low D’s can strategize without first gathering ALL the facts or carefully considering ALL the implications.

Vice versa, low D’s find it incomprehensible how much learning and preparation is required – just to get under way.

As discussed in Low Detail People in a High Detail World, they to get to the bottom of a problem, placing their greatest time and effort on “the bigger issues”. A low D person has an uncanny ability to identify single points of failure and determine the most strategic use of resources.

Both low detail and high detail are necessary.

High detail orientation is “hands on” excelling at implementation, while low D remains “big picture” oriented focusing on solutions. One is all about doing it right, and the other about doing the right thing.  Or as someone in a Pro.file training session once explained: Low D is about what to do; high D, about how.

Here is what it looks like when each one values the strengths of the other:

High Detail

  • Administrative assistants set up meetings, edit messages, and check travel plans so the boss can be at the right place, at the right time, and say the right thing.
  • Technicians use graphs and illustrations to “break it down” for management and clients.
  • Controllers supply governing boards with financial summaries.

Low Detail

  • Sales reps submit key numbers so accountants can process transactions – and ensure they receive their commissions.
  • Managers consider the input of direct reports – who quickly, and thoroughly, think of all the implications of any decision.
  • Leaders draw on information diligently gathered by detailed experts in designing their strategic objectives.

Bottom line: in combination, they do the right things the right way!

Have the different “D’s” developed an appreciation for each other’s abilities in your organization? Look for the evidence in a flow of work coming from departments where direct reports are absorbed in high quality work while managers are clearing the way.