Attention to detail

  • Published
  • By Mr. John Veirs
  • 97th Maintenance Division Chief
How often have you heard people speak of "the big picture" while not letting little things get in the way of what they want to do? I'm here to tell you that as a leader, manager, employee or Airman, not paying attention to detail or the small things in our lives can lead to catastrophic results.

Whenever I'm notified of an accident or incident involving one of our employees, whether on the job or off, I ask myself why it really happened. What was the root cause? One of the first things I want to know is if proper procedures were followed. If not, was there a training issue, was personal attitude a contributing factor, or was it possibly complacency? In many instances it simply boils down to the individual simply not paying enough attention to detail.

What is attention to detail? It's simply being thorough in accomplishing a task with all areas concerned - no matter how small. While preparing this article I read various authors and successful peoples' view points on what they thought paying attention to detail meant, but the one I thought who said it best was Gary Ryan Blair. He said, "If you long to accomplish great and noble tasks, you first must learn to approach every task as though it were great and noble." Even the biggest projects depend on the success of the smallest components. Many people downplay small details, dismissing them as minutia - the "small stuff" that we're sometimes encouraged to ignore. But our entire environment is simply an accumulation of tiny details. Although we measure our lives in years, we live them in days, hours, minutes and seconds. Every action and detail of our lives has bottom-line repercussions, and it's dangerous and derogatory to think any of these details as trivial, unimportant or inconsequential. Imagine what it would be like if doctors, nurses, detectives, firemen, engineers or pilots didn't pay attention to detail. I sure wouldn't want a surgeon operating on me if they weren't looking at even the tiniest of steps as they perform the procedure.

Let me leave you with a likely scenario that occurs every day. Then ask yourself, "If it happened to me, would I want to know why attention to detail wasn't on the mind of the person performing this task?"

Imagine that you've been placed on a strict diet by your doctor and you're no longer allowed to eat red meat. The main staple in your diet is now chicken. After months of eating chicken for lunch and supper the doctor finally lifts the restriction. As relief sets in your first thought is to run to the nearest fast food restaurant and wolf down one of your favorite food groups - a big, juicy, mouth-watering double cheeseburger with pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes on sesame seed bun - no onions, mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise. The anticipation mounts. You're drooling and ready to savor every bite. Now imagine how you'll feel when opening the wrapper and inside on an ordinary bun is a chicken patty with the works.

So now ask yourself, is paying attention to detail important? It doesn't matter what your job is or how you approach events in your life, doing the right things right the first time and paying attention to every detail as you go is key to success.