Critical Level of Detail

Critical Level of Detail

We optimistically assume that when the subordinate business leader has a problem, they will solve it. However, some problems are long-lasting or seem to be endemic to the process. That leads to the question is how should the leader manage this problem.


Oftentimes, the person directly involved in an area and accountable to solve a problem puts forth their best effort and yet the problem remains. They may attempt multiple solutions and still the problem exists. When questioned about the problem and what has been done, they will explain their perception of the problem and their extraordinary efforts to fix the problem. When this occurs repeatedly, then the problem is generally something other than what they believe it to be. They are probably very good at understanding the symptoms and how it affects them, but not necessarily the problem. When there are multiple levels in your company, this disconnect between the problem and its resolution can become even worse. The next level up will report the problem and efforts similarly as to the multiple solutions attempted, the vast effort expended towards resolution, and of course in the best light. If this continues, then ultimately the belief is that this is the way things are, the problem cannot be solved (or we would have already resolved the issue), and therefore it is now a part of the pattern of how the business operates.


On these rare occasions that a problem is there and it appears from the reports of your subordinates and those directly involved that they have expended great effort and the actions have not resolved the problem, then the leader must become directly involved at the critical level of detail. This is the level where direct observation can be made. By becoming personally involved at this much lower than normal level, a couple of things will happen. First, attention will be drawn to the problem as other people will want to know why you are involved and may offer constructive input. Second, you may have greater experience in the area and may directly resolve the issue. Third, even if you cannot, you will ask probing questions which causes your team to reexamine their assumptions and gather new facts that may be helpful in resolving the issue. Many times this problem will be solved.


It is extremely important that this involvement at the detailed level not become routine. The leader must be careful to enter the problem knowing that he or she is disrupting the normal pattern of problem solving. It should be viewed as a teachable moment and not permanent. When the problem is resolved, the leader should take time to explain how the root cause was discovered and the problem solved. This will increase the problem solving capability of the team members. To become involved in a number of these problems frequently, makes these problems your problems to solve in the future. That level of involvement will be resented and labelled micromanagement. No one wants to work for a micromanager. We all want to be valued and trusted to do the work for which we have been hired. However, there are occasions when our expertise is exceeded which can limit our problem solving abilities. If you find yourself routinely involved in the problems that should be resolved at lower levels, then you have one of two other problems, either you are, in fact, a micromanager and this style will inhibit the growth of your people and your business, or you need to upgrade your team in this area.
Shoreview Management Advisors has deep experience in helping CEOs and owners identify opportunities and assess the strengths and weaknesses within their business. This includes helping the leaders become more effective through living out high expectations, ensuring that the team and individuals are fully capable of excelling, and that long standing problems are resolved. Shoreview Management Advisors can assist the leader in preparing for and executing the changes necessary to achieve tangible business results in the near term.


Business growth is dependent on the shift from primary reliance on past knowledge and aging practices, to a forward-facing perspective with a clear view of evolving business environment and best-practices aligned with conditions in today’s marketplace.