Every company wants to improve its business accuracy; however, mistakes are going to happen—it’s just a fact. When mistakes do happen, the following actions or inactions will take place:
- Nothing changes; therefore, the same mistake can, and probably will happen again.
- Someone needs to be blamed; therefore, the same mistake can, and probably will happen again. It’s not much different than when the company does nothing.
- A lesson can be learned from the mistake, thereby reducing the possibility that the same mistake will happen again. This obviously is the best option and promotes operational efficiency.
When a business reviews its past mistakes and proactively changes processes or procedures associated with the mistake, potential problems can be prevented from recurring in the future. Taking a proactive approach to mistakes changes the thought process from a temporary fix to a permanent fix.
The following are six approaches to eliminating or reducing mistakes:
1. Eliminate error factors—Redesign processes and procedures where errors have occurred, and eliminate factors that are prone to having mistakes happen again. Workflows should be reviewed to find areas that are weak or outdated to reduce potential errors; areas can also be combined with other processes or procedures to increase overall operational efficiency. Although total error elimination might not ever be achieved in a business, error elimination and error reduction should be a goal.
2. Replace one process or procedure with another—This action involves substituting a process or procedure with a more reliable one. Using new and improved equipment allows technology to achieve more reliable results instead of simply relying on human intervention. A passive approach to processes and procedures is to keep the status quo; a proactive approach—substituting one process or procedure with another—leads to error reductions.
3. Practice prevention—By eliminating or reducing potential errors, “negatives” can be turned into “positives.” For example, safety guards on machines can prevent employee injuries; online forms can have field limiters and checks to ensure accurate data input; computer programs can ask for a confirmation before an item is deleted. Practicing prevention can be implemented in any business. It produces positive outcomes as it prevents costly accidents, increase accuracy and accountability, and improves operational efficiencies.
4. Simplify to improve—Facilitation helps make it easier to not make mistakes. People love simplicity over complexity; the easier a task, the better it will be understood. An example of avoiding confusion in an office might be to color code different forms—print expedited requests on red paper so they don’t get lost in the shuffle with other documents. Data entry can be simplified by using “check-the-box” choices and on-form instructions. There is no need to make something difficult if it can be made easier.
5. Detect first—Detection warns of possible impending problems. For example, parking garages have entrance and exit signs, as well as height warnings; road signs warn of impending danger. Advance preparation through the use of various detection measures can help reduce errors from even happening in the first place.
6. Mitigate adverse effects—Mitigation alleviates the effects of something going wrong. One business might have an automatic shut-off switch for electricity, water, or a specialized piece of machinery; another business might have a computer lockout after a number of incorrect password attempts. Although everything can be done in a business to prevent errors, mitigating the effects of an operational failure is important when an error does occur. Forward thinking rather than emergency fixes is a prudent business philosophy.
Total involvement of everyone in a business—from owners to employees—can stimulate creativity to figure out ways to prevent errors from happening. Observation, group discussions, and open communication can correct many deficiencies in a business before something goes wrong. Prevention now—peace of mind later!