In Praise of I-Dotters and T-Crossers

Jun 3rd, 20122 Comments

Describing someone as “detail oriented” can be a kiss of death, or at least, damning by faint praise.  It can imply that he is a micro manager, or that she is incapable of seeing the larger picture or thinking strategically.

Two glaring gaffes over the last few days show just how crucial it is to measure twice and cut once, lest a tiny oversight cost time, money and missed opportunities.

LBJ School of Pubic Affairs, Mitt Romney's Amercia

The LBJ School of Public Affairs misprinted “pubic” instead of “public” on the programs for its 2012 commencement ceremony. Assistant dean for communications, Susan Binford, said they were “mortified. It’s beyond embarrassing”, according to media blogger Jim Romenesko.  The School corralled resources, apologized, reprinted and promised to mail new hard copies to all the graduates.

Romney’s typo appeared on an app released on Tuesday, and was updated by Wednesday afternoon. But not before internet and national news media picked up the story, and #Amercia debuted as a trending topic on Twitter, according to CNNTech’s Doug Gross. Now there’s even a Tumblr blog, so the typo and its meme can live in infamy (note the resurrection of the Dan Quayle “potatoe” gaffe here).

Neither of these errors was intentional, and neither was a body blow to their organizations. But these mini mishaps required fast-footed, super-sized repair work – time, money and effort that could have otherwise been spent on promoting the organizations’ goals, instead of cleaning up after themselves.

Turning disabilities into possabilities

Another nearby example at The Scooter Store, whose huge storefront sign used to read "Turning Disabilities Into Possabilities". Ouch.

I agree with Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo’s The Sideshow that I’m probably inviting bad karma to even point out these errors. So instead, this post is an overdue ode to eagle-eyed copy editors, whose numbers are decreasing, and a salute to detail-oriented people everywhere.

Detail meisters are not just tweakers of others’ work.  They zero in on a project or problem with laser focus, understanding and solving it from top to bottom and from every angle. It’s practically impossible to measure their importance unless they don’t perform well. Detail-oriented people are the oil in a well-oiled machine. They are the opposite of ball-droppers and the ultimate in “The Buck Stops Here”.

They’re not perfect, but they can be counted on to prevent the lion’s share of embarrassments, rework and costly mistakes.

Because sometimes the devil really is in the details.

Question: Have you been described as “detail oriented”? Have you ever had a “wow, I caught that mistake just in time” moment?


Photo credits: LBJ School image from a tweet by Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith. Romney app photo from Tumblr.

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