Starting with Details

The stuff you think nobody notices.

Last week I was in a coffee shop.

This place was gorgeous.

Gentle lighting, smart color scheme, appropriate music, fine coffee, and approachable staff.

As a consumer, it was seemingly great.

I sat down at the bar, right in front of the baristas, and started looking around and chatting a little bit (as I do). I find myself driven by this old Sherlock Holmes quote about not just seeing things, but observing them (“You walk up your home’s staircase everyday, how many steps does it have?” is essentially the question Holmes asks Watson to teach him).

I began to notice tiny specs on a lot of their dishes — familiar specs that I know meant they hadn’t been sanitized properly. I noticed small milk spills near their ice bin, which means milk is being mixed with every iced drink (even the lactose-free ones!). I notice their floor mats are kind of falling apart, which might mean they haven’t been thoroughly clean or replaced in a while. The thought comes to mind:

Man, what else might they be neglecting?

When we start with the details, big picture becomes second-nature.

“Of course I’m going to make sure every table is clean — we make sure every ceiling corner is clean!”

“Of course I’m not going to serve this drink — we put so much time into making sure our machines that make them are taken care of.”

It’s the broken window theory in practice at your workplace. Take care of the windows (the floors, the bathroom, behind the refrigerators), and people will be less inclined to commit higher crimes, because they can tell from the details that this place is actually cared for.