I recently read about one of those 80s rock bands that made seemingly unreasonable demands of backstage staff at a stadium venue. You know the sort of thing: curtains made of a certain fabric, a particular scent of candle to be supplied or jelly beans with the green ones taken out.
This sort of behaviour has often been seen as representing the worst of human nature; an arrogant and vainglorious attitude that doesn’t have a place in the world of normal people.
But the article went on to print an interview with the tour manager of the band. He made the point that his job was to ensure that every aspect of a huge ‘band on the road’ project was meticulously planned and delivered; he was delivering a mean machine.
But, jelly beans? Well, knowing that the venue managers could get the small things right gave the tour manager the confidence that they could get everything else right.
Here’s an example of attention to detail. In Gloucestershire, village and community ‘agents’ provide face-to-face information, signposting and support to local disadvantaged and isolated people. These agents go to loads of places in the community, from lunch clubs to flu clinics; but they also visit people at home and pride themselves on taking the time to discover their needs. These can extend beyond health and social care to include social interaction, help with home improvements, or, for instance, with issues such as finding the right bus routes.
Using ‘agents’ like that is also a good example of preventative work, which can show how an intervention at the right time can have a big effect, by delaying a deterioration in people’s independence and wellbeing.
You don’t need a motivational speaker to tell you that a smile doesn’t cost anything, but it can give you an indication of how passionate someone really is about attending to attention to detail. And that goes for people providing care and support just as much as it does for people picking out jelly beans for recalcitrant rockers.
Tony Hunter, chief executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence, and former chief executive, North East Lincolnshire Council