Don’t get distracted by the devil in the details

The devil is in the details, isn’t it? Ever have what seemed like a great idea and then when it came time to make the idea a reality, it was very difficult to make the idea happen? That’s because the devil truly is in the details.

Details are time consuming, difficult to plan, and can bog you down. Sometimes there are so many details to achieving a goal you can’t even start because you don’t know which detail to tackle first.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the details that we forget about the bigger picture. What may have started out as a great idea suddenly doesn’t seem like such a good idea because the details weigh us down and we no longer keep our eye on the desired end result. This also happens when a new idea is proposed to us by someone else. We can focus on one or two details and never fully understand or appreciate the big picture.

Did you know that seeing the big picture is considered a key leadership quality? But even more important is the ability to lead others to see and support the big picture or to build a shared vision. It has been demonstrated that workers perform better when they also see and understand the bigger picture. That also can be transferred to the general public. When a community project is announced, those who don’t allow themselves to get stumped by the details tend to be more supportive of the project.

Remember the plaza that was proposed to be built in downtown Alpena? At a big picture level, the plaza was widely accepted. But yet, the plaza is not yet a reality. It is largely in part because the hard part of the project was in the details.

The biggest, most contentious detail was parking. Parking is adjustable, yet we let this concern derail the project. The hang up was in the manageable details even when the majority of people supported the bigger picture, and even when the details involved were flexible and negotiable. How is that possible? That’s what happens when we lose sight of the bigger picture, the difficulty of dealing with the details consumes and ultimately halts the project.

But the details are really where an idea becomes reality, right? True, but what is also important is how we choose to treat management of the details.

Let’s consider the announcement of a downtown hotel. That’s extremely exciting news and it seems as though most people agree with that sentiment. For those who are working on it who see and understand the bigger picture, the details will undoubtedly come together to make the project a reality. They see the positives of the bigger picture.

The hotel is a significant investment into the community. It will employ an estimated 25 people, and bring more money into our community ($1.2 million estimated to flow into downtown annually). The hotel also will allow us to promote the community as a host for larger events.

When you look at the bigger picture, this sounds great. And that’s because it is. But of course there are details that need to be worked out, some of which might be threatening to some people. Like parking, street access, the use of the bike path and competition for existing properties. It is possible, as it is with all projects, that so much focus and disagreement could be on the details that the project is halted. That’s why when it comes to the details our attitude and approach that we choose to take is so important.

Going into negotiations and discussions over the details with an open mind and a willingness to collaborate to make it happen is extremely important. Choosing our own response and actions following an announcement like this is key to success.

There are many things going on right now in the area. Believe me when I say there are many more projects right around the corner that haven’t yet been announced. Be careful not to get so caught up in the details that you miss the bigger picture. It’s an easy trap to fall into. The devil is in the details but don’t let that distract you from the benefit of the bigger picture.

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.