All hail to the jobsworths and the nit-pickers

Pointing out the small print: We need more people like that, says Sharon Griffiths.

Pointing out the small print: We need more people like that, says Sharon Griffiths. - Credit: Getty Images

Opinion: It's all very well thinking you have answers to the big questions, says Sharon Griffiths - what we need is more of the people who have answers to the small ones.

Let's hear it for the nit-pickers, the jobsworths, the pen-pushers and bean counters, the lovers of small print, the relentless naggers and fusspots who leave no t uncrossed, no i undotted.

We need them more than ever.

Yes of course they drive us all bonkers. We sigh theatrically, drum our fingers, tear our hair out and ask WHY are they asking us such trivial questions?

Because they need to know, that's why. Without all the facts, however trivial, no one can plan for all eventualities. That way disaster lies. While we're gazing at a grand horizon, all they can see are the bumps along the road.


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Just look at Brexit or the roll out of Universal Credit. Dogs' dinners the both of them.

Someone had the grand design, the visionary plan, the big idea. But no one really asked 'How are we going to make this work?'

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Without all those tedious little details the grand design is no more than pie in the sky. Or – in the case of many billion pound road schemes – a monumental traffic jam.

The devil is always in the detail but too many people think they are far too important to busy themselves with minor details. It's not just big stuff, it's also why are our own small worlds are frequently reduced to hair-tearing hopelessness.

I'm currently involved in a ridiculous saga with BT. You know the kind of thing. You've been there. If not with them then with another big organisation. They're currently denying I exist. Disconcerting to say the least.

But every day we're driven to despair as we deal with banks, building societies, big companies major utilities, government and council departments and it's like wading through treacle. Incompetence, faulty systems, nobody speaking to each other or updating records, so every time we have to start again, telling the same story and just knowing that the friendly cheerful voice on the end of the line isn't taking a blind bit of notice.

No wonder the nation's blood pressure's soaring.

Just think how much money the NHS would save if all our dealings with such people were solved instantly. Sigh…

Every office always used to have a really boring person who checked every detail and delighted in finding faults in every scheme, usually in triplicate. Annoying but vital. Where have they all gone? In our complicated, fast-moving world, we need them more than ever.

I know you can do degrees in all sorts of weird and wonderful subjects but what we really need is more administrators and fault-finders, people who can join up other people's thinking and see where the gaps are.

We encourage our children to have big ideas and great dreams. And so we should. But maybe we should also encourage them to bother themselves just as much with the tiniest tedious details.

For unless the details are right, how are the big dreams ever going to work?

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