Small Stuff

You may be familiar with the series of books under the name “don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. Their key message is, as I understand it, to bring happiness to our lives and see the positives in everything, focus on the big long term picture and stop worrying about little things going wrong that you can’t control anyway.

That is a great point and it will help managers to relax and take a more balanced approach in life, be happier and with that probably more focused on the key issues in the business.

Another concept is the often heard warning not to micro manage. Micro management is when you keep yourself involved in every aspect of the process, and as a result your staff will get frustrated by your constant interference.

Both concepts are valid and valuable in my view. Look at the big picture and get out of the detail, leave it to the people you have hired to take care of it.

Still the title of this post is “Small Stuff” and I want to emphasize the importance of small stuff. Not to micromanage it, not to sweat it and have it become an obsession but as a reminder that a good business process is tuned to the finest detail and it is the sum of all these details that eventually make a great business process and help to make a company great.

If Apple would not control their design and production process to the last detail, it would not have become the company it is today.

Industrial landscape with playing boyAnother great example is the chemical company who invited a class of children to one of their sites and handed them all polaroid cameras. The children were then, after a solid safety briefing and with the help of some adult volunteers, directed to sections of the plant and asked to make a picture of every leakage or smoke plume they could see. The company then had a team of engineers analyze the pictures and prioritize and plan repairs. The prevention of loss of energy was immense and a good underlining of the savings you can generate when looking at the detail.

Quality, Excellence it all has to do with attention to detail. Yes we need the big picture but we need to pair it with the appropriate attention to detail to ensure our process truly works the way we want it. Looking at enough detail to be able to make the right decisions and not getting swamped by that detail so you get distracted and fail to make any major decision is the balance we are aiming for. So how to you do this when you are not Steve Jobs?

  • Assemble your team with an eye for diversity in orientation; big thinkers and detail oriented individuals.
  • Outline your thinking about the process and ensure your reinforce it every day in every way possible.
  • Don’t take situations that happen and standard reporting for granted, insist on root cause analysis to find out what really is keeping your company from greatness.

Just like a process is dangerous when you forget the purpose it was created for, a Strategy is vulnerable if it is made without taking care of the details that are able to derail it.


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