CXO

Don't sweat the small stuff too early

Have you ever been in a planning meeting and everything comes to a grinding halt because someone wants to address details? There's a time and a place for the details, but not in the beginning of the creative process.

Have you ever been in a planning meeting and everything comes to a grinding halt because someone wants to address details? There's a time and a place for the details, but not in the beginning of the creative process.

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In TechRepublic's IT Leadership blog, Patrick Gray made this statement: "It is better to make an imperfect decision that moves the project forward today than to spend months vacillating and pontificating while time and money fly out the door."

If that statement weren't so long, I'd put it on a tee shirt.

I remember being in a horrendous meeting one time in which a bunch of us were discussing a new product and what the order e-form for it would look like. Three people in the room (one of whom was the project leader) "hijacked" the meeting for about 30 minutes and discussed the color the Order Here button would be. Setting aside the fact that this discussion centered around a button color (!) and that those were 30 minutes of my life that I would never get back, it really demonstrated an infatuation with details that would more than once impede the forward movement of the project.

I'm not saying button color is not important — all you Web designers out there with your fingers poised to shoot me an e-mail can calm down — but to obsess on a down-the-road detail like that when the parties involved could have been using that time to, oh I don't know, actually make the product, well it didn't make sense to me.

And, of course, this being corporate America and all, the three people debating the relative advantages of color #11198D over color #990000 were each passionately determined to win the "argument." And even that degree of minutiae worship could be excused — in a different place and time. The team leader should have been the one to take the whole issue offline to discuss, but as I said, he was one of the three giving disproportionate life to it.

Look, I know details are important, and if you don't consider them before a project, they can blow up in your face down the road. But excruciating detail can also curtail big ideas and stifle creativity. One of the reasons I was never successful at creative writing is because I could never let go of grammatical rules while I was being "creative." I couldn't let my thoughts flow because I was always stopping to correct my own punctuation or unsplitting an infinitive.

Every now and then as an IT leader, you should devote a meeting to brainstorming as if anything were possible. Visualize the possibilities before you start limiting yourself with all the mundane details.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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