Business is often about briefing others to get work done, by suppliers, or associates, and we want to be sure that we get top quality work done on time. The briefing, whether verbal or written, is crucial, but how can you tell if it’s been properly received and actioned?
When I was involved in booking bands as part of the Union committee at University we often received what appeared to be weird requests from the musicians for certain things to be made available to them. One often cited example was to require a bowl of M&M sweets but without any blue ones. Did they really dislike the blue ones? No, it was a test. If we had read the contract and paid attention to this detail we’d probably have done everything else, but if there were blue sweets in the bowl the band knew they had to check everything else as well.
More recently, I was listening to senior Labour Baron, Maurice Glasman, talking to Nick Robinson on the BBC. He talked about leaving errors (usually in the form of obvious jokes) embedded in draft legislation as a means of testing if MP’s and others had actually read the legislation. If they request an amendment to the wording to correct the deliberate ‘error’ then you could be sure that it had been reviewed.
In business too, there are often elements of requests, specifications, tender documents, requests for proposals and the like that are really there to test attention to detail. In my time at Lloyds TSB I would often ask those who were pitching to us to arrive at the office at a specific time. This wasn’t just in order to manage our own time, but also to respect the right of confidentiality to others. The key thing is to read requirements carefully. Check understanding and detail with care. Be fastidious, be detailed, and if you can’t meet a requirement communicate that early, rather than hope that ‘it will be OK’. If you do pay attention to the detail, you will, in my experience, stand out, because very few do.
Equally, we can put small, but visible, things into our requirements of others to see if they pay attention to the detail on our behalf. It is, after all, something that can work for us, as well as against us.