Attention to detail: Natural ability or acquired skill?


The Document Control profession requires a specific set of skills, a certain personality type and specific personal qualities. These traits are indispensable to do a good job.


“Attention to detail” is one of those traits.


Indeed, Document Controllers are responsible for Quality Checks, which involve looking at a large amount of information, and being able to identify the needle in the haystack, the one detail that is incorrect.


Failing to identify an incorrect piece of metadata, such as an incorrect revision number, can sometimes mean the difference between life and death for a document user; or the difference between a successful project and a lawsuit.


Therefore, attention to detail is crucial to Document Control.


Many people naturally possess this quality, due to their personality, their upbringing, their education and their background. 


But can “attention to detail” be learnt or acquired? 



Can someone who does not naturally possess this quality be trained to develop it? And to even become good at it?


Our Managing Director, Luis Heng, provides his insight:


“I started my career as a Process Engineer on Oil and Gas production fields. I would say that I had a reasonable eye for detail at the time. But I must say that it is only when I started working for Design and Engineering Contractors that my attention to detail developed dramatically. 


It was the first time that I was exposed to so much cross-checking of work. You do some work: someone checks it, then someone else checks it and then, the approver also checks it before he/she signs off. Believe me, your work gets rejected only so many times before you start paying more attention to details!


It took me a few months to really tune in, but years later, I am now known for my extra-sharp attention to detail [laughs]. But I still make a few mistakes, like everyone else. That is why we check each other’s work, as a team.”


Julie Tchao, our Document Control expert, shares her perspective:


“I have been supervising people for quite a few years, now. To me, if someone does not naturally possess attention to detail, they can develop it with the correct attitude. 


Indeed, some people get annoyed when tiny mistakes are discovered in their work, and they take it as persecution or injustice. For others – the ones with the right attitude – the discovery of mistakes in their work sparks some sort of realisation of what is expected of them, they see the opportunity to become better, and they seize it.


I have seen some people make enormous progress over the years – because they have had the right attitude.”


How can someone who does not naturally possess attention to detail develop this skill?


Luis Heng’s advice: “Ask people to regularly review your work and to honestly point out mistakes. Then, thoroughly take notes every time something is discovered, identify patterns in the mistakes that you make and develop and maintain a checklist for yourself. Then keep that checklist close and use it systematically.” 


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