Jun 17, 2011

Death with Detail

There is devil in detail! Details tempt people to look away from their goals and purpose and get carried away in filtering, slicing and dicing data endlessly.

This preoccupation with detail is next only to our desire for riches. Whatever the position in hierarchy, senior, middle, junior, day in day out are busy on obtaining and making sense of details without which most of them cannot do their jobs. Detail of operations, projects, business and so on. Phone calls, emails, meetings costing countless dollars and hours of effort are spent on obtaining details that might not really help.

Sure, details give a sense of control and focus, they give comfort of knowledge, feeling of being hands on and a reassuring sense of  control. But details need more detail to understand and more and more detail to explain and make sense of and soon, we are lost in them. Details matter less than the purpose, goals, objectives.

Details shield us from focusing on goals, purpose and objectives of the mission on hand. details destroy our sense of direction.  With excessive details, 'means' start to matter more than the ends. When purpose is ignored, thoughts drift, actions chase themselves in a futile pursuit.
With no big picture, no map in hand, we loose our way, it might sound counter intuitive, but we don’t actually loose our way not without detail, but the other way round. What you need to find direction and reach your destination is a compass and a map, not the details of how exactly the next turn looks like...for instance.


If it were not for the detail, meetings will be shorter, there will be lesser confrontations, more harmony for individuals with their surroundings, others and within themselves.

How do we know if we are lost in details?

Ask yourself why you need the data/detail in the first place? What conclusions does it help you make, what insights it is expected to give. If the answer doesn't relate to your mission goals, you are lost in details for sure.

If you are not sure why you are doing the next level of drill down, just don’t dig further - perhaps you already have data you need.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Very astute! I'm working on this right now. I used to think detail orientation was a strength but have learned that it can quickly derail progress if not held in check. Thank you.

  2. Hi swrightboucher, Details are necessary but they don't give a firm ground - your mission objectives should be your anchor, that way you know if the details are right, whether you need the detail in the first place.