Tuesday, March 20, 2007

after a big error

When is the best time to be a patient? Ironically, it is immediately after your doctor makes a salient error. The reason is simple - that is when he/she is going to be paying the closest attention and double checking everything. If the error was a slip (insufficient attention) then the doctor will be paying extra attention. If the error was a mistake (incorrect situation schema) then the doctor will be double checking and studying the situation. If the doctor doesn't know why the error was made, he/she will probably be doing both.

Ironically, the way most organizations deal with big errors is to suspend the person from doing the activity. Quarterbacks are taken out of the game, employees are suspended, children are grounded, etc.

The better thing to do is to send them right back out with maximum repetitions so that the extra carefulness gets cemented into their normal routine. At the same time, the system needs to be evaluated to identify the root cause of the error. Are employees not sufficiently trained to recognize situation schema? Are there distractions that hide important information? Is the information not readily available?

Of course, this is when it was an error. If the person intentionally violated a rule, then the correct response is punishment. But people violate rules for many reasons. It may be that the rule was not presented with sufficient importance and consequence. Or the person was trying to satisfy one requirement by violating another. Even intention does not 100% indicate that the root cause is the violator him/herself.

This is a subject for a different post. Or you can take my upcoming summer course at FIU on performance management. It is available by Internet if you don't live in Miami.