There are a few questions we frequently hear from our workshop participants. And perhaps the most vexing is the question of detail… how much do I need, where do I put it, how much is too much? Without exception, it comes up and is a major topic of conversation in every workshop.
Why? For two simple, conflicting reasons. First, detail matters. In any serious business conversation, across all industries, decisions on strategy and budget can’t be made without a healthy dose of detail. We have so much detail and analysis available to us these days, that we ignore it at our own peril. Good information clarifies and crystallizes the decision.
Yet, on the other hand, we live in a fast-paced, attention-deficit, time-starved world. People have a lot to do, not a lot of time to do it, and attention spans have plummeted. One of the most frequent complaints we hear from executives is that their direct reports give them “way more detail than they need.”
Detail is important, there is plenty available, and yet we don’t have the time or the tolerance to absorb all that is available. Total conflict.
Which makes this classic cliche, which we hear all the time, in all industries, so hard to execute: In God We Trust… Everyone Else, Bring Data.
So how, do we manage this classic impasse? Here are a few quick tips:
- Lead with executive summary, and then go into detail as time and attention allow. Have it at the ready, but don’t lead with it.
- Think hard about which detail matters most for that meeting, and that audience. You can’t include all of it, you have to make choices, so filter it by relevance and audience interest.
- Assume every important meeting could be five minutes long… or forty five minutes long. Be prepared for both. See point #1.