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Author's profile photo Colleen Hebbert

Letting go of the details

I’ve made a promise to a mate who’s made himself one of my unofficial career mentors. And I’m still quite unsure how to see this commitment through. Perhaps, community you could help.


You see, I love details. It is my comfort zone. I don’t like advising people of answers or committing to work if I haven’t figured out the nuances, the exceptions or the outliers of a problem. I like to figure out the exception that makes the rule. Then I want to find a way to conceptualise it to share with others and finally figure out how to improve it. I’ve prided myself on when in doubt, read the code and reverse engineer it. It’s fun. I’m home: a sense of accomplishment when I crack the problem and get a working solution. Did I provide enough details of my self-assessment?


But here’s where my love of detail and comfort zone is a disservice to me. To illustrate this, I was studying some products I have not implemented before. My typical approach would to read whatever technical information that I could gain access to. My desire was to obtain a demo system for me to configure it. However, I decided to take a business view approach and look at the business proposition and value add along with how I would position such a solution. I spent an hour staring at a blank screen. Honestly, I had no idea why. I could not figure out take top down view.


I desperately wanted to go back to my comfort zone and reverse engineer it: if I could figure out why it ran a certain way then I could apply an analogy and explain it. Problem is, I didn’t have access to the tools nor do I have time. And ultimately, the people I collaborate with don’t need to know which table store the data or how the code executes.


So, circling back to my mentor, we made a red wine agreement after him spending at least a bottle convincing me that I’m capable of being more strategic. His advice to me was to “just have a conversation” and “it’s okay not to know the answers and rely on others”.


I’m still unsure how best to proceed. And that’s ok. So far, my main approach has been to keep myself in check. I’ve already attempted to Google and look for books with “How to be XYZ” when perhaps I need to focus on “Why and When”. The “How To” are my comfort zone. When I find myself gravitating to the How, I’m asking myself if I value add by knowing it right now. And most times, the answer is no.


My other conscious decision has been to trust others. Rather than say “I couldn’t care”, I’m starting to rephrase my comments with “I trust your expertise”, “I have no technical preference”, “Of the options available, which one do you think is sustainable/cost effective/insert key criteria” and “does this provide value”? It’s an opportunity to let go of the details and have a conversation.


And here, my fellow community members, I hand over to you and ask you: how do you let go of the details to further your development? Do you question your ability to provide expert advise if you don’t know the specifics? Do you worry about your credibility if you aren’t the most knowledgeable person in the room? How do you balance details with strategy?




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      Author's profile photo Jocelyn Dart
      Jocelyn Dart

      Hi Colleen

      The first few years I was asked for a strategy or a strategic view I honestly had no idea what they meant. They may have well said “sprinkle magic fairy dust here” & have got the same end result.

      I used to have the same problem with watercolour paintings. I would watch the artist paint & had no idea how they would decide where to put down paint & where to leave the paper blank to show light.  They just seemed to make squiggles.

      Then one demo an artist pointed to her a streak of light on her source photo original & said “I leave the light where the light goes” & click click click a bunch of neurons aligned & I suddenly got the idea! Enlightening (both literally & figuratively)!

      I feel about strategy kind of the same way.  A good question can be “what would I need to believe for that to be a good direction to step towards?”   And to get curious.  Business models & processes can be as endlessly fascinating as technical architecture & coding paradigms.  And just as involved

      Sometimes it helps to take as an article of faith that strategy is just people trying to make their part of the world better. And try to step into their mindset to see things from their perspective

      Sometimes you just need to shine the light from a different direction & see what it highlights

      Keep looking. Seek and you will find