When asking, how fast should I run, we should realize we need more information. The question has a way of making its point as the title of this blog post.

Details or Lack of Details

Have you ever noticed that two people answer the same question differently? There are many reasons for this, and honestly, the reason is rarely a matter of intelligence. We have different personalities, different experiences, different cultures.

When we answer questions, we need to give the right level of detail. The appropriate level of detail will vary from one person to the next. We need to look no farther than a drug commercial to realize the truth that nursing mothers have a different need than those who are not nursing mothers.

Determining Level of Detail

detail microscopeWhen there is a small group of people or an individual, it is much easier to determine the proper level of detail. In some cases, the level of detail is the same for everyone involved.

When should people go to vote? Well, the time to go to vote is the same day for everyone. If you cannot vote on that day, we have a standard that provides for that. You vote absentee. The level of detail is very apparent for both of these groups.

What about a large conference where you have thousands of people gathering. Say you are feeding people meals at a meeting with over 2,000 individuals in attendance. What if someone is diabetic? If someone is allergic to peanut butter, would that matter? Lets say someone does not eat pork or any meat in their diet, how would that change things for them?

What we see is different needs drive varying levels of detail for the same crowds. While these could all be delegates to a national political convention, who vote in person or absentee, their level of diet detail is more involved. The complexity of dietary needs doesn’t change the degree of detail required for voting, though.

Compassion Factors

We need to remember some factors when it comes to accurate evaluations of the level of detail required. At the end of the day, we need to remember that people matter. If we forget that, then the myth that it is the principle of the thing is a facade.

People have needs. They need income, family, health, and purpose. That is not meant to be an inclusive list because that level of detail is not necessary here. And the comment of detail there was not planned, but I did end up laughing about it.

Resource Factors

The needs of people quickly outweigh the resources available to serve them. If we had all the material and monetary stores, it took to solve those needs we still would be limited by time.

How do we figure out what to do if we don’t have enough? It raises the question of how did we determine what was sufficient? If we provide all the needs, we will work against people’s sense of value. All of us benefit from having meaning. So don’t feel guilty that you cannot provide everything that someone needs. It is good for people to have to get involved in their future.

Bus Factor

bus factorWe need to be there to help. It is also risky to make another completely dependent on us. Many software developers call this the bus factor. If you got hit by a bus, would they be able to survive without you?

When we serve others, what is the critical value of the things we do or provide for them? Are we serving them if our demise would be a tragedy? It is appropriate to profit from helping others in ways they benefit. It is wrong to put them at risk to maximize our profits.

General Game Plan

That is just three factors. In general, we need to ask, are we looking at the right level of detail? Are we building a space shuttle or a food pantry for the family? The standard of detail between those is very different.

Ask yourself when doing something new if the detail level is correct. You should also ask yourself when times change if the detail and/or activity are appropriate. It would also be good to ask yourself if small items within the scope of detail should be broken down, and split out into a sub-project with more detail.

The main reason we tend to have unasked questions is we have the wrong level of detail. So, make the level of detail part of the question.

John Farrar

John is a family man, married for over 30 years with thirteen children. He also has been into technology since the late 70's when he began his journey in software development. He is a creative innovator who loves strategy and has a passion for impact.

Latest posts by John Farrar (see all)