Mistakes Happen — So Manage Them
Ivey Business Journal
Errors happen more often than employees admit, so smart organizations proactively encourage reporting while seeking to maximize beneficial learnings. This article looks at the balance that needs to be found between discouraging mistakes and learning from them. Combining error prevention and error management can be difficult. After all, while error prevention typically views all errors as unacceptable, error management emphasizes constructive responses such as learning. While people tend to view wilful violations of rules as unacceptable, honest mistakes are often seen as acceptable. As a result, in order to build a just and accountable error management culture, it is imperative for managers and organizations to bring clarity to what is forgivable and what is not while also facilitating error reporting among employees. Honest mistakes can be divided into chance occurrences (bad luck); actions of others; lapses of attention; and well-intentioned mistakes. Honest mistakes, when reported, present valuable opportunities for organizational learning and better control of errors through the examination of contributing factors and processes. The authors’ data reveal that key sources of honest mistakes range from individual actions and choices (e.g., intentionally not following accepted or best practices) to process or system factors that are under the control of management (e.g., lack of attention due to workload pressure).
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