Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No time for the detail

Despite, or perhaps because of, the proliferation of productivity devices and applications fewer people now appear to have time to look at any detail.

The fact is many of them never did anyway. They were happier firing off one line commands rather than collecting information, analysing data and determining a plan to successfully accomplish a task. Strangely people with limited attention to detail and minimal attention span often occupy top jobs and have a personality that seems impressive at first. "I prefer to take a helicopter view" might seem as though they have a grasp on the big picture, but are the creatures on the ground they view from on high giants or ants?

The problem is people who should actually be looking at detail don't, or may be are incapable of doing so. Managing by forwarding emails is one symptom that should raise caution. It is quite instructive to look at the email trail that typically arrives from some companies. It starts deep within the organisation with someone emailing a colleague a question, one that is dealt with by forwarding to someone else and so on until it leaves the organisation entirely to land in the inbox of an external consultant. Oddly the serial forwarders probably consider the act of forwarding completion of a work task in itself. Sometimes the email goes to a colleague sitting just a few feet away. Perhaps if people spoke to each other more, overburdened email inboxes might be less of an issue and communication more effective.

It is quite common these days to see people working the emails on the move. On the over crowded commuter trains into and out of Euston there are people sitting cross legged on the floor a Mac on their lap busy forwarding their emails. So the working day extends into travel time too - no wonder they have to giveaway the London Evening Standard for free now. Its what the chairman of a company I worked for years ago would call 'being busy fools.'

But marketing only really succeeds if the planning is meticulous something it shares with the military - in fact the approach to a successful marketing campaign calls for the same ingredients such as reliable intelligence, analysis, consideration of options, strategy, detailed planning, marshalling of resources and immaculate execution - plus the flexibility to change if conditions change.  And you can't pull that off without attention to detail.

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