Attention to Detail

I just read a long piece in Sports Illustrated entitled “The Sabanization of College Football” written by Andy Staples.  It was yet another confirmation of something I learned a long time ago and have seen repeated time and time again in life – the most successful people in ANY field are always the ones who pay the most attention to the details of whatever it is they are trying to accomplish.

The purpose of the article was to show why Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, has been so successful (he’s won 2 of the last 3 national championships).  To give just a small slice of why, here is an excerpt from the article:


“Instead of thinking about the scoreboard, think about dominating the man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.  Instead of thinking about a conference title, think about finishing a ninth rep in the weight room.  Instead of thinking about graduating, think about writing a great paper for Intro to Psych.”


As you can see, Mr. Saban is intensely interested in making sure the people he is leading are focused on all the little things they need to do in order to be successful.  He knows if he has his players, assistant coaches and team support staff all focusing on doing their specific jobs the best they can, then his entire organization will reap the benefits.

As I said, I have seen this over and over.  When Steve Jobs died last year, virtually every story I read about him talked about how fanatical he was about getting the details right on all of the devices his company ever invented.  And I have just finished working for one of the most successful independent companies in the box industry, Colorado Container Corporation, where ‘attention to detail’ was ingrained in the company’s DNA.  Look at any success story in any field of endeavor, and I guarantee you will find a devotion to detail underlying it.

I long ago applied this philosophy to my professional career.  Instead of reconciling a bank account in the traditional way by only reconciling the ending balance, I also reconcile the cash in and the cash out as well.  I can’t tell you how many times this process has found and fixed a problem that would otherwise have gone unnoticed – until it becomes a huge problem.  Instead of accepting a solution that puts all the numbers in the right place, I always push to find out what caused the problem in the first place.  Then I prepare a solution that specifically addresses the root problem and then I develop a system or procedure to ensure such a problem won’t arise again.  And to anyone who has ever seen some of my multi-paragraph explanations of journal entries, you now know the reason why.

So just like Nick Saban, Steve Jobs, Colorado Container, me and virtually every successful person or organization you can think of, if you pay attention to the details you will invariably have all the success you can handle.


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