Enough detail

Have you ever put something into a process only to have it turned back because there is not enough detail?

It could be a booking form or purchase order or a business case or a personal appraisal. Sometimes I find this annoying. Web-based forms used to be the worst but the relentless competition for online retail revenue has forced online portals to focus hard on design and the user experience.

Now it’s the legacy paper-based forms that irritate, largely as they can not provide context sensitive input fields.

But these are all transactional experiences. What about the human in the process as a decision-making component?

You fill in all the sections of the form or template. Submit it. Often wait a while and then receive requests for more detail. This has happened to me twice recently – one was a mortgage application. It appears underwriters love detail. If you have been through this process recently you will know that to get your application in front of the underwriter you have to spend ~ 90 minutes on the phone with someone filling in a heavy duty form with lots of detail.

But it’s not enough detail. They want more…

Curious… Is adding more and more detail adding any value?

Is it going to help the bank manage its risk? I’m sure some of it is for the sake of regulatory compliance but I suspect some of it is just corporate or personal paranoia – Fear of making a mistake (FOMM). (See my earlier blog on; Recognising your fears and channelling them for future success)

It’s easy for me to knock underwriters. I am pleased that someone is ensuring financial probity and I hope it protects the financial institutions, society and consumers….

My question is;

“how do we know when we have enough detail to make a decision?”

  • Is it when all the data required by the template has been filled in?
  • Is it when the accuracy of the data has been independently assured?
  • Is it within 5 minutes of meeting the candidate for the first time?

Answer? Surely it depends on the type of decision. But let’s just think about the difficult and important decisions which involve, intuition, luck and judgement. Good data is probably sparse. Even if you have good data you probably don’t have a good evaluation framework to link the data to your intended outcomes!

I claim you have enough detail when you are;

one level down

from the level at which you are making the decision. In the case of hires I suggest that we make decisions at the peer level so we need to look at how the candidate works one level down, ie with her or his direct reports and their colleagues. (Hence the wide take up of the 360 feedback process)

In the case of re-location, we can look at the lease and the transport links and the amenities – but what is the actual experience of working there going to be like day-to-day? Maybe we need to spend some hours there, to explore the local cafes and travel there by different means.

In the case of picking suppliers, we can evaluate the product or service, the price, the quality, but what is it going to be like working with them? Maybe we need some references from people we trust?

We can of course go into more detail but what I am proposing is that for difficult decisions you may only need to go one level down to have enough detail

…If you have designed a good evaluation framework.

I may be wrong.

You decide.

Happy rest of the week – link to this week’s pic..


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