Sweat the Small Stuff
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – George Eliot, British author, 1819-1880
Big data. Strategic thinking. Broadband. And at MSU, “Bolder by Design.” Words like “big,” “strategy,” “bolder” are expansive and sweeping. However, in order to make large visions reality, many small things need to be planned and delivered.
When delivering information technology, progress happens via small increments, and can be shot down in flames by small misses.
- Availability: Great to have 99.99% availability or higher, but timing is everything. If the .01% downtime on a website occurs when a public event is happening where the site is mentioned, it will be perceived as 99.99% unavailability. To put it in a higher education context, the learning management system that is down during a final, has low availability no matter what the annual numbers say.
- “For want of a shoe….”: In a major broadband program involving hundreds of miles of fiber, there were points along the route where certain poles, difficult water crossings, ambiguous rights-of-ways involving mere feet became huge barriers to the program. It was just as important to the completion of the program to resolve these small stretches as it was to resolve larger issues.
- Communication: The initiative that doesn’t communicate the details effectively is unlikely to succeed. I always go back to the 5 Ws: What, Who, When, Where, Why, and the one H: How. This constitutes a formula for crafting an effective communication. And don’t forget the channel; with the cacophony of social media, email, and (still) paper mail, the methods you use to reach the intended audience is key.
- Power of One: Statistics tell us about the experience of the group, but not the experience of the individual. In today’s viral environment, one tweeted bad experience can derail a product or company. It’s not enough to put customers first, every customer must be first.
Caveat: It’s as important to sweat the small stuff as it is to know which small stuff to sweat. (Say that five times fast.) Every project, initiative, and system is unique in terms of the minutiae that can enhance or skewer.
So sweat the (right) small stuff.
- Worth reading: “Good To Great and The Social Sectors,” Jim Collins’ monograph that accompanies his well-known “Good To Great.”
- Worth repeating and retweeting, for when in key meetings and interactions: Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said now? Does it need to be said by me? If the answers to all are, “No,” then best to continue with active listening.
- Worth anticipating: The release of “Go Set a Watchman,” the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” There are many great lines in Harper Lee’s original novel; one of my favorites is: “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” It reminds me to spend time with people that think differently than I do, so that I don’t “generally” restrict my thinking.
- Worth doing, every day: Thank a coworker. A genuine statement of appreciation accompanied by a smile, goes a long way.