The Devil (and Salvation) is in the Details
I have heard that someone's Grandmother often said "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves". If it was my Grandmother, then sorry Nan, I should have paid more attention. In my defense it seems that I am in good company in this industry.
I am not really thinking strictly about finances either. So many aspects of our industry stand or fall on our vigilance of the pennies, the details in the work, rather than on the bigger picture. New product development and Qualification, Manufacturing, Quality and Inspection, Safety. Details matter. I had been thinking about this for a while and struggling how to illustrate the point, when at the end of 2009 Southwest Airlines handed me a perfect example. The news was that Southwest fitted Non-certified Parts to 42 Aircraft and the FAA were investigating. It sounded shocking, but look closer. Their approved maintenance facility procured exhaust gate assembly hinge fittings from an approved supplier to an approved design. Unfortunately, the supplier wasn't approved to produce this part. They had the capability, but not the clearance.
I don't want to single out Manufacturing or Inspection, the same issue affects us all. Picture all of the Engineering departments working to design and develop new products to meet the thousands of customer and regulatory requirements. There is always pressure to meet deadlines and it is human nature to push on to create, to put pen to paper, or draw lines on the screen. Do we have time to spend weeks going through all of the requirements without producing anything to show for it? Can't we tie up the loose ends when we finish?
I once attended a trial "6Sigma for Design" course. The company had chosen a few of us to attend and give feedback ahead of rolling the approach out to the rest of the company. The rest of the company never saw the course. This was mostly because the method suggested using MUCH more manpower at the beginning of the project than is traditionally used. More people, more expense and seemingly no more progress, even though all of the details would be addressed early. The idea was to avoid all of the expense of throwing people at resolving the last minute problems, the delays, the test failures and the unanswered questions. It was scuppered because saving money over years by spending more than everyone else has never been an argument that holds much sway at monthly budget review time.
Sorting out the details that were left to later costs money. Call it "Cost of Quality" or "Non Reoccurring Cost over-runs", use some resource now to tame that Devil in the Details or he will run rampant later with your budget and your reputation.