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Processes, not people, are to blame for most mistakes.

It’s something I learned when in healthcare management classes, and it’s something that I’ve seen over and over again in the workplace (mostly outside of healthcare).

Just the other day, a colleague of mine found a mistake that affected about a month’s worth of work. We were able to quickly fix the error, and everyone apologized for their role in the oversight. But apologies weren’t necessary: we all knew that something about the process was broken.

We were able to diagnose how it happened almost immediately (not usually the case!), which told us exactly what part of the process was broken. Now, we can put systems in place to prevent it from happening again.

I’m feeling very fortunate to work with a team that understands that humans make mistakes and that it’s okay–even encouraged, as part of the learning process to make them. But also that we need processes in place to prevent them from happening too often.

A lot of companies don’t get this. Employees are reprimanded, punished, even fired for making mistakes that a process should have prevented. I remember learning that the development firm that my organization hired had fired an engineer for making a (very big) mistake that affected us and one of our clients. I felt horrible. That was not the way to make it right, but the firm seemed to think it was.

When a company punishes an employee for making a mistake, it sends the message that the company doesn’t value the human-ness of the employee or the lessons that can be learned from mistakes.

When it comes to human error, what kind of leader (or worker) are you? One that puts more pressure on others (or yourself) to pay closer attention, or one that frees up the resources—including grace and security!—to improve your processes?

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