Attention to detail (or lack of it) is a regular frustration for anyone who manages people and even co-workers of those with poor attention to detail. And what do we all say to the person who keeps making mistakes?

Most of us tend to say the same things: “pay attention to detail.” Or, “be more detailed oriented.” And… it never works -ever. Of course, it doesn’t work. It’s too nebulous. No one has ever defined it, yet we constantly throw it around. Seriously, look it up in any dictionary – attention to detail. It’s not there.

What is Attention to Detail?

To pay attention means to focus on an action or activity. From a business perspective, attention to details includes the ability to concentrate on a task.

You might ask why this is so important. The answer is simple. Because people who have this ability perform better at their jobs than those who do not. When you pay attention you will reduce errors and reduce the amount of time it takes to correct mistakes.

Generally, some pay meticulous attention to all they undertake. Some regard them as obsessive-compulsive. Then some can pay careful attention to one thing while they neglect other aspects of their lives. You might find they have an ordered filing system, but an untidy home. These types of people fall along a spectrum. I wonder where you fall?

A Framework for Improving Attention to Detail

There are three types of attention to detail:

  • Contrastive. This is about comparing one of two elements. Either it is right or wrong, black or white. It implies only one solution.
  • Analytical. This is about finding multiple solutions and requires a bird’s eye view of a problem to discover an appropriate solution.
  • Additive. This is about innovation and improvement. This type of attention is about finding the best possible route to follow to conclude.

Creating a Detail-oriented Organization

As with any cultural improvement, developing a detail-oriented organization takes time and consistent support from management. Though once the framework for becoming detail-oriented is instilled at the individual level, management can then solidify it by making it a common value through conversation, visual cues, and encouragement.

We live in a world of distraction, flitting from one task to another. No, we are not meant to multi-task. We perform best by starting and completing one task at a time. Instead of jumping from one activity to another, we would do better giving our undivided attention to one thing at a time. This is where it comes in handy to keep a to-do list and prioritize the importance of each task at hand.

There was a time when craftsmen took great pride in their work. They would spend hours perfecting, shaping, and creating until finally, they were satisfied with their efforts. Their work lives on in the memories of those who knew them. When we pride ourselves in our work and pay attention with focus, we create a calm and peace for which many strive.

No easy task, yet worth striving for in a world of chaos. Order is a breath of fresh air. Try it some time.

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