The Trouble With Details

By Damian Connop

The old idiom, “the devil is in the details”, suggests something ungodly lurks within the finer points of any given thing. Its origins are considered to be from the phrase, “the good god is in the detail”, alluding to the idea that if anything is to be done then it ought to be thorough, that the details are important. Both are valid guides to a less misleading existence but just because something is important doesn’t mean it’s where one starts.

In the realm of project management, it’s not uncommon for individuals and teams to dive headfirst into a project with a laser focus on the minutiae. They meticulously plan, debate, and document every conceivable detail, often with the best of intentions. However, this approach can sometimes prove counterproductive and even paralysing.

Starting with a huge amount of detail can have the unintended consequence of halting progress before it even begins. Here’s why it’s often wiser to resist the temptation of overanalysing the finer points and instead embrace a more flexible, outcome-oriented approach.

  1. Analysis Paralysis: Delving too deeply into the details at the outset can lead to analysis paralysis. When you’re bogged down in intricacies, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and the overarching goals of your project. This can stall forward momentum and leave you stuck in an endless cycle of planning.

  2. Adaptability: A rigid focus on detail often means adhering to a predefined plan, leaving little room for adaptation. The world is constantly changing, and unexpected challenges and opportunities will arise. Starting with a general direction rather than a fixed plan allows you to pivot and make necessary adjustments along the way.

  3. Iteration and Learning: By embracing a more fluid approach, you enable yourself and your team to learn on the job. Starting with a direction and the intention to iterate allows you to gather real-world feedback and insights that can shape your project’s evolution. This method of approach can conjure up ideas and routes to success that haven’t previously been thought about.

  4. Avoiding Tunnel Vision: Detail-focused projects often develop tunnel vision, where the team becomes so engrossed in the specifics that they overlook alternative solutions or innovative approaches. A broader starting point encourages creative thinking and a willingness to explore different paths to achieve the desired outcome.

  5. Efficiency: Lastly, focusing on details too early in the process can be inefficient. Many details may become irrelevant as the project unfolds, wasting valuable time and resources. Starting with a clear direction allows you to prioritise what truly matters and allocate resources more efficiently.

While attention to detail is undoubtedly important, it’s equally crucial to strike a balance in project initiation. Starting with a broad direction and the intention to iterate as you progress can foster adaptability, creativity, and efficiency. By avoiding the trap of overanalysing every detail from the start, you’ll not only get your project moving but also discover innovative solutions and unforeseen opportunities along the way.

So remember, the devil may be in the details, but it’s often best to begin with a strong sense of direction and let the details unfold naturally as you journey toward your goals.

Damian Connop is Founder and Creative Director at G&V. For more information on how we can help your brand grow through experienced account and project management then please get in touch via our contact page.


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