Details Matter

March 23, 2017 Ryan Perrone No comments exist

For the grammar aficionados, there was a recent case where a single missing comma, the Oxford comma, resulted in a dairy ending up on the wrong side of a $10.0 million lawsuit regarding overtime pay.


This is just another reminder, that in many instances, details really do matter.


There are many different parts of an organization where the details can have a huge influence.  Here are some examples.


Sales – In the past, we have discussed negotiating a large new contract with a prospective customer.  The following items could be included and have a huge influence on profitability: product returns, rebates, cash discounts, advertising, freight allowance, new-store allowance, markdown allowance, etc..


Sourcing – Unless you have worked in sourcing, you might not fully appreciate the breadth of features / specs that can exist for a seemingly simple product.  For instance, if you are looking for a quote on chicken wings, the spec sheet is almost 2 pages, covering significantly more than just the weight and whether it is fresh or frozen.


Real Estate – The technicalities that can come attached with real estate can be mind-numbing.  These can be broken down into many sub-categories, including building codes and zoning restrictions.  A new building on a street corner could be required to have two different setbacks based on the classification of each street by the local municipality.   The importance of a knowledgeable architect can be invaluable when dealing with these types of situations.


Manufacturing – Having worked with a wide array of manufacturing companies throughout my career, I have witnessed some very interesting incidents regarding details.  My favorites include:


  • One large multi-national was receiving the same part from a supplier in two different locations.  Location A started to object to the surface finish of the product (something that was barely visible to the human eye and did not affect product performance).  While the engineers from each side worked together to refine processes to “fix” the issue, Location B never once raised an issue over the product quality, despite receiving the exact same products for many months.
  • A client was relocating its manufacturing to another country. This took over 1 year and required the US plant to thoroughly document the production steps for each product.  For one particular part, the new facility was unable to successfully produce a finished item that met spec.  The personnel at the US plant felt that this “proved” that the new workers were unable to perform the same quality work.  Upon further investigation, it turns out that the official production steps were followed exactly.  However, the official guide was incorrect and was never modified to reflect the “adjustments” at the US facility that were required to produce the part correctly.  So, even though the management was confident that they had documented all the steps, there was still a fair amount of tribal knowledge that was not being captured.

The point to remember in all of this is that when details are involved, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) rely on experts, and 2) ask lots of open-ended questions.  Now, to make sure you have the right experts, it is best to seek out several to provide a point of comparison.

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