I’m a Van Halen fan. When I hear a Van Halen song on the radio as I’m driving, I usually grab the seat belt strapped across me, and enter immediately into an air guitar contest. I’m sure it’s not impressive, but I rock on anyway. And never would I have thought the artists behind “Ice Cream Man” and “Jamie’s Cryin’” would teach me a lesson about details-
David Lee Roth’s autobiography highlighted how maintaining control over the little things generally translated to the big things going well. When Van Halen was hired to play a show, they provided the promoter with a contract “rider” that outlined specific things the promoter would be responsible for. From sound and lighting requirements, backstage area, security needs and personal wishes of the band. Specific and trivial alike, it was all in the rider.
Somewhere in middle of the Van Halen rider was the curious stipulation that a bowl M&M candies be backstage for the band, with all of the brown candies removed. If any brown M&M’s were in the bowl, the band could cancel the entire concert at the full expense of the promoter. That meant that because of a single candy, a promoter could lose millions. Why? In dealing with million-dollar equipment items, pyrotechnics, and large crowds, concerts are a big deal, and with safety in mind of fans and band, the magic in making it work is in the details. To ensure the promoter had read every single word in the contract, the band created the “no brown M&M's” clause.
This story intrigued me. Partially because I’m a big-picture person. I come up with BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) based upon the end-in-mind and get to work, generally without taking the time to play architect. Along the way I come across more obstacles then I had hoped for. As hope is not a strategy, maybe my approach should include more front-loading with the details, as small as they may be. Little details manner. They define you in a big way.