The Devil is in the Details

September 30, 2017 9:34 am Published by Comments Off on The Devil is in the Details

Blog October 2017

“Don’t be buffaloed by experts. Experts often possess more data than judgement.” From General Colin Powell’s 18 Lessons in Leadership.

We should respect the opinions of experts. They have studied a field long enough to earn that respect. They have gathered the data, facts and figures to support their viewpoint. However, we do not want to blindly adopt their opinions either. For example, Captain Sullenberger landed a plane on the Hudson River to avoid a potential disaster. The “experts” said that he should have been able to make it safely to the next airport (following procedure), where he could have saved the passengers and the plane. They had the data to back up their opinion. They had flight simulation tests to prove it. However, what they did not have was sitting in a plane after birds flew into the engines and having to make an on-the-spot judgement call. The data pointed to Captain Sullenberger making a mistake. But what the data left out was it took 15 attempts in the simulator before the plane could land safely at the next airport. Captain Sullenberger did not have 15 tries…he had one.

The behavior pattern that focuses on data and details the most is referred to as the Criterion, which literally stands for a standard of judgement or set of criteria by which they measure success. They measure success, not necessarily by moving up the ladder, but by perfecting their job. Yet often times they are promoted due to their attention to detail, their task orientation and expertise. This focus often leads to a very efficient and highly disciplined work environment. However, this pattern can be viewed as inflexible due to their propensity for strictly following rules and regulations and rigidity in gathering facts and data. As a result, they are often slow to make decisions that involve risks until they have collected enough data and facts to ensure success. This delay in decision-making results in a perception of procrastination.  Their vision does not extend beyond their methodical, systematic, procedural way of doing things, which is a narrow view of the world.


Expert data is helpful, but when does the data, processes or procedures become the master to the neglect of accomplishing the overall objective and/or timely decisions? Good sound judgement should always be factored in along with the data when making decisions. We never want to disregard the experts, but we never want to disregard our instincts either. As with Sullenberger, those instincts might just save your life one day.

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