Managing design / designing management

00 – Small things

A hand reaching for vivid green miniature dishes, that look fragile.
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Those who do not take care of managing the small things should not be entrusted with the big ones.

In organizations, big things always attract attention. The hype. Everyone tunes in, updates their vocabulary, redirects their gaze and activities towards the “next big thing.” It’s easy to enjoy the warmth of the spotlight focused on the primetime stage.

What’s not as easy is performing on that stage. Using that attention to build something good, whether it’s a product, a service, a document, or an artifact. Even more difficult is not being distracted by the clamor and continuing to attend to the small things. Away from the spectators, continuing to make those small gestures that, over time, build the truly big things.

Crafting the words of an email. Taking care to start each video conference with a bit of human dialogue. Saying good morning in the morning. Remembering who has which specific field of excellence, and giving space for their input on the topic. Even if they’re less experienced overall. Asking how someone is and actually listening to the answer. Even when there are other things more urgent. More important. Bigger things.

So, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to trust someone with a less prestigious pedigree who knows how to take care of the small things. Furthermore, I’ve had to learn to distrust those who don’t know how to do it, and myself, when I’m not able to do it.

Indeed, you don’t run a marathon under 3 hours after a week of intensive training – that’s the big thing – but after years of running a few meters more or a few seconds faster – many small things. With consistency. You don’t manage a board meeting without having managed thousands of bilateral and trilateral meetings. You don’t design a good digital service in production without having designed thousands of interface components. It’s unlikely that one falls in love with a partner because of one grand gesture (Hollywood, please…), while it’s more likely to happen because that person greeted you with their best smile before doing anything else, every day, for a long enough time. Despite the bad days.

Taking care of the small things is the basic training for doing big things, on which one relies to build the “extra.” Those who justify neglecting the small things with phrases like “I don’t have time, I have bigger, more important things now” do not understand how the fundamentals of any discipline work. And they should not be allowed to attend to the big things.

Original in italian here

(Luke 16:10)

Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters.