One of the mantras sometimes bandied about in business is, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s cracker-barrel wisdom to keep one focused on the big goal. However, in my 29 years in corporate and now eight years in academia, I observe that this is bad advice. The big stuff is made up of small stuff; dismissing small stuff is unproductive.
For example: A common New Year’s goal is to lose weight; however, success rates hover in the single digits. Why? Because making one big decision is easy… “Let’s lose weight.” It’s the failure to remain vigilant with a thousand small decisions, “Don’t eat the cookie,” that derail your goal. I earned a master’s and doctoral degrees in my 50’s not because of a big decision, but because of hundreds of small decisions to study or go to class instead of playing golf or watching television.
In business, we face this dilemma all the time. We set big goals… but are we prepared to execute on those goals? Are we prepared to do the small thing, day-in and day-out, to bring that goal to life?
A good secular book on this topic is Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy. A better book is Luke where in chapter 16, verse 10 we learn: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much.”
Success is about the small stuff – the little decisions. Every day.
Dr. Kirk Fischer, Associate Dean, McLane College of Business, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor