Wednesday 15 January 2014

How does your organisation respond to a Mistake?

How does your company respond to a Mistake?

Does it change the people, or change the system?

There is a phrase in English,much used by the media - "Heads will roll". This refers to the days when a criminal, or just someone who made a massive blunder, would have their head cut off, where upon it would roll across the scaffold and fall onto the ground.

The phrase is still used to represent punishment after a mistake or poor performance.

For example, this statement about a scandal in the New Jersey administration under governor Chris Christie.
CBS News political director John Dickerson told the co-hosts of "CBS This Morning," to expect some heads to roll within Christie's administration. "I think you are likely to see probably firings. I think you're likely going to see a buck stops here moment from him (Christie) -- taking responsibility for this."
But what good does head-rolling actually do?

If someone is criminal, or incompetent, then sure, there can be grounds for firing them. If they just made a mistake, then this is grounds for learning, not sacking.  You learn from the mistake, and fix the system so that the same mistake cannot be made again. Christie's administration needs to learn and improve the way it works (if you believe the news report).

If you fire the person but don't fix the system, then that mistake will reoccur, with someone else in charge.

And another head will roll - until someone realises that it is better to change the system, than change-out the people.

1 comment:

Vince Polley said...

My favorite example of good mistake-management was on a sign in a hospital: "Never Waste a Good Mistake" (advertising a lunchtime staff seminar). Especially in a hospital, it takes courage to acknowledge that mistakes occur; even better to make use of them.

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