self-correcting errorsSelf-correcting errors are those from which you learn lasting life lessons, only seconds AFTER picking up a hot frying pan!

Wouldn’t it be great if the errors and mistakes you make in your BUSINESS would just self-correct like that?

Actually, there are some events that happen in businesses and other areas of life that are so monumental or costly, they teach us—often too late—not to make certain mistakes again.

That seems to be the case when learning to use firearms.

Even experts who teach gun handling and safety say that self-correcting errors often happen to them.

Recently, my wife and son and I attended a two-day course to improve our knowledge of the use and care of handguns. Our trainer, who also trains police and SWAT teams in our area, is really knowledgeable about weapons of all types, and was very thorough in training us.

Costly Errors—Avoid by Following Instructions

“If you follow my instructions and learn the step-by-step process I will demonstrate,” he said, “you won’t get hurt. And, by the end of the course, you will be amazed at your proficiency in handling and firing a handgun.”

He was right about that, at least in the case of my wife, Susan!  By the time the course was completed, she was firing a 9mm semi-automatic pistol with both her right and left hands, with surprising accuracy.  She had also learned to clear a jammed gun and change out her magazines in a matter of seconds. This, for a girl who has always had a fear of firearms!

In my case, however, I and others in the class had to experience one of those “self-correcting errors,”our trainer described.  He demonstrated how to hold the gun correctly, but I kept going back to the way I had taught myself years before. Not really trying to be Rambo, just one of those “old dogs, new tricks” moments, I guess!  So, as I fired over a hundred rounds, one of the fingers on my left hand took a terrible beating whenever the gun slide recoiled.  It finally dawned on me that, not following procedure our trainer had shown me would earn me a really battered finger.  All it took was moving my finger to the correct position, and the rest of the day went smoothly.

Self-correcting Errors can be Painful

Even in running a business, PAIN can be, SHOULD be, good reason to self-correct, when what you’re doing isn’t working out well!

True Story:

Our hand-gun trainer played a video for us, showing an incident that had happened when ANOTHER very experienced instructor, was teaching firearm safety.  In the video, an over-confident gun instructor demonstrated his skills to a group of young middle school students.  “I’m the only one here experienced enough to do what I’m about to show you,” he said.  Immediately, he whipped out his loaded pistol from its side holster and mistakenly shot himself through the leg.

Commenting about the video, our trainer said, “Now, THAT’S what we call a Self-Correcting Error; and you can bet that instructor will NEVER make that mistake again!”

Again, wouldn’t it be nice if, at your company, errors and mistakes would just correct themselves?

Unfortunately, most of us have to learn through experimentation and PAIN, not to repeat certain actions. However, we tend to learn the hard way, like driving too fast on ice, picking up that hot pan; or running a business without quality control systems.  Hopefully, the resulting experience is self-correcting!

I had never seen errors self-correct in my own company, prior to using quality control systems under constant vigilance.

Why are mistakes in business NOT self-correcting errors?

Fact is, many who make mistakes feel NO PAIN!

In many businesses, workers get paid, and enjoy paid vacations and other benefits, whether they make mistakes or not. They may even get paid overtime for some RUSH rework, in order to correct the error they made!

I’m not saying people don’t care or don’t feel badly, when errors happen. On the other hand, most workers don’t bear the real consequences of those errors, as does the owner of the business.  When mistakes are made, an owner feels the pain right in the wallet, and he/she is generally the one to experience a customer’s wrath over an error.

So, what do you do with this information?

If you are a business owner, I suggest the following.  Implement a system in which employees who are involved in an error are asked to sign a document (i.e. Preventative Action Request). It needs to describe the error, state what happened, and the root cause of the problem, so it can be fixed. Also, a description of which quality control or service control system was improved or implemented, to ensure the error doesn’t happen again.

A Self-Correcting Error should be a TEACHABLE moment! As I see it, it’s an event that motivates a worker, a business owner, anyone, NOT to make mistakes on-going. It should also prompt them to find solutions that will correct such errors, permanently.

Did I mention? Great systems work!