The Big Picture is Made From the Details

One morning when I woke up a thought hit me and I had to write it down.  So as soon as I got up I went into the kitchen and grabbed a piece of scrap paper to write it down.

What I wrote down was this, “Young managers who think they are too important to do the small tasks and just blow through them.”

What made me think of this was work that was done by a “manager” (I am using that term pretty loosely) who had recently departed the company.

He had a mechanical engineering degree from a rather prestigious university on the east coast.

He was just in the early stages of his professional career, in his mid thirties and had been let go by a large global corporation where he worked for just a few years.

Shortly after his arrival at this company he was given the position of Director of Marketing but never really produced any results.  By results I mean sales because what else would you really measure?  What else really matters?

As the company continued to downsize due to a decrease and stagnation of sales and a senior buyer in purchasing had to take an extended leave of absence due to medical reasons, the young Director of Marketing was moved into purchasing to help out.

About six months later the company realized they were paying him a manager’s wage for subordinate work and he was let go.

In his exit interview he voiced his opinion that he was the “strongest” manager this company had.

This really didn’t surprise anyone in the company because no one thought more of this guy than himself.

In the months that followed his departure I started coming across his day to day work and found it mediocre at best.

He paid no attention to detail and didn’t know or probably didn’t care about the affects of what he was doing and the problems this lack of detail would cause down the line.

If he would have been one of my employees when I was a manager I would have had to call him into my office for a frank discussion on the quality of his work.

Why would I or anyone entrust someone with major company functions and decisions when they perform the minor ones so poorly?

What should I expect, exceptional performance when the task is important or should I say when you feel it’s important?  Are you going to tell me you’ll suddenly flip the switch and perform like the strongest manager in the company?

I don’t buy that.

If I did, how do I know that you will place the same level of importance on tasks as I do?

It’s obvious they wouldn’t because I think the detail is very important. Not to be over obsessed but paid attention to and done right.

If by some strange twist of fate I would ever become a manager again I’m going to throw out of my office the first person that tells me they are a “big picture” person.

Everyone forgets that the “big picture” is made up of all the details.

Look at any masterpiece of art.  The artist paid attention to every stroke, every shading decision, every detail until when finally finished the “big picture” was magnificent.

It’s the same with music.

Great recordings by great artists and producers pay attention to every detail in the sound.  Great musicians pay attention to every note and the nuances of every note.

And it all took years of hard work and experience.

You don’t just walk in to an organization and tell everyone I don’t sweat the small stuff, I’m a “big picture” guy.

You’d better sweat it.

Do you know why?

It’s because no one else is going to.

You set an example and speak volumes about yourself by everything you do.  No one wants to hear I didn’t do a good job because I didn’t think it was important.

A business associate who passed away a number of years ago use to tell me that his dad would say to him: “Whether it’s big or small, do a job right or don’t do it at all.”

So to all you young, inexperienced, “big picture guy”, strong managers out there, grow up!

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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