Is Your Organization Too Smart to Make Mistakes?

Posted by on Nov 5, 2012 in Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, Problem Solving, Process Improvement | 0 comments

How much do you think human error costs your company annually?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Millions?  One thing for sure is the fact that we humans are all prone to make mistakes.  So given our fallibility, how do you build systems that compensate for the likelihood of error?

One method is to use checklists.  A checklist is a informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention.The airline industry requires pilots to use checklists to make sure all doors are secure, all switches are set in their correct positions, and even that their seatbelt straps are tight.  The concept of a pre-flight checklist was first introduced by management and engineers at Boeing Corporation following the 1935 crash of a prototype B-17 at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, killing both pilots. Investigation found that the pilots had forgotten to disengage a critical wing adjustment mechanism prior to take-off.

The airlines found that their were various attitudes that contributed to potential errors and failure.  Some of the hazardous attitudes and their remedies include:

  • Antiauthority: Don’t tell me. The attitude should be that everyone needs to follow the rules. They are usually right.
  • Impulsivity: Do something quickly. The attitude should be, not so fast. Think first. Use a checklist.
  • Invulnerability: It won’t happen to me. Rather, the thought should be, “It could happen to any of us, especially me.”
  • Macho: I can do it. The attitude should be, taking chances is foolish and unnecessary.
  • Resignation: What’s the use? The attitude should be, “I’m not helpless. I can make a difference.”

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