Mistakes are inevitably going to happen in any business. When they do happen, various actions will take place from that point on.
- Nothing changes, and, therefore, the same mistake can and probably, will happen again.
- Someone is blamed, and, therefore, the same mistake can and probably, will happen again.
- A lesson can be learned from the mistake, reducing the possibility that the same error will not be made again.
Suppose the business reviews and analyzes mistakes made and proactively change processes and procedures involved with the mistake. In that case, many potential problems can be prevented from happening and recurring in the future. All businesses can take this proactive, positive approach with forward-thinking actions.
Consider the following approaches to eliminate or reduce mistakes:
Error Reduction refers to revising or completely redesigning processes and procedures to reduce the possibility or eliminate factors prone to generating mistakes. The entire operational system of a business can be reviewed to find methods and procedures that have weak controls, obsolete controls, or processes and procedures that could be combined with others to increase efficiency and reduce areas of potential errors.
Replacement or Substitution action involves replacing or substituting one process or procedure with a more reliable one. For example, barcode readers that replaced manual input significantly increased control and accuracy for businesses implementing such automated devices. Improved equipment and advanced technology should be considered whenever possible to achieve more reliable results.
Prevention in business encompasses a proactive approach to guard against an error or accident happening in the future. Examples might be: (1) safety guards on machines to prevent employee injuries, (2) online computer input forms that have field limiters and accuracy checks, or (3) computer programs requiring confirmation before an entry or deletion can be finalized. Current prevention is a better use of time rather than time spent solving problems at a later date.
Simplification makes processes and procedures as easy as possible that will help avoid making mistakes in the first place. This might be something as simple as (1) color-coding different forms in an office, (2) expediting email requests with a high priority tag, or (3) data entry forms made easier by using check-the-box choices (i.e., shipping address the same as the billing address). When a process or procedure can be made simple, there is no reason to make them more complicated.
Detection can warn of a possible impending problem. Parking garages have entrance and exit signs, as well as height warnings. A computer program might have a notification that a deletion cannot be recovered and is final. Advance preparation through the use of various detection measures can help reduce possible future problem situations.
Mitigation alleviates or reduces the effects when something goes wrong. A continuous computer backup is a perfect example. Although everything is done in a business to prevent errors, reducing an operational failure’s severity is essential when something unforeseen does happen.
Everyone’s total involvement in a business – owners to employees – can stimulate creativity in mistake-proofing a business. Observation, group discussions, and open communication can correct many business deficiencies regarding processes and procedures before something goes wrong. Prevention now equates to peace of mind later!