Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The ‘Once-only’ tolerance principle for mistakes.

Originally uploaded by plindberg
Anyone can make an honest mistake. Making mistakes is part of exploring, of innovating, and of pushing the boundaries. Nobody who ever made a breakthrough, never made a mistake.

Companies must tolerate honest mistakes if they are to encourage performance. People must be allowed to stick their necks out, and to go for the stretch goals, even if sometimes they fall short. However they should have fall-backs in place, and they should have done their rick management in advance. There is no merit in stupid mistakes.

However what companies should not tolerate is repeat mistakes. Tolerance of mistakes should operate on a once-only principle, provided Knowledge Management is in place. Once a mistake has been made, the company needs to learn from it, and never repeat it again. Repeat mistakes are evidence either that the KM system has flaws, or that people are not using it. And if we find out that there are no flaws in the system, then a repeat mistake shows that people are not using the system, are not “learning before doing”, are not doing the up-front due diligence to ensure they have all the knowledge they need, and are taking unnecessary risks.

And that should not be tolerated.

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