Simple Tips To Reduce Errors

As business owners we know the cost of mistakes but beyond the actual cost of the error, there is the damage to our reputation that repeated mistakes will do. The value of systemising your business cannot be underestimated when it comes to contemplating the reduction in errors. However, systemisation is not a 100% guarantee that your business will be error free. While systems offer some degree of comfort, “error free” is a matter of vigilance, checking and care. Errors happen – it is a simple fact when the “human factor” is involved. However, in business, errors cost money and careless errors can also cost us our reputation and your client’s future business. To eliminate errors, we need to consider how they arise. We have grouped these into Policy – Procedure – People:

  1. Policy“: Is about errors arising from why actions are taken, for example: misinterpretation of rules or of legislation or other guidelines. These errors can have a significant impact and while the action itself may be correct, the reasoning behind it is flawed
  2. Procedure“: Is about errors that have arisen due to how actions are completed, for example: following a procedure or checklist
  3. People“: Is about any errors that have arisen because of what was done by the person completing them. These could include errors from oversight, omission or carelessness

It is common, when finding an error, for a manager to immediately look at the “People” aspect of the error. It’s the most common place for problems, has the greatest degree of risk and is the area that is the least consistent in your business. It’s a case of 3-2-1 problem solved! In fact, one of the simplest ways to reduce errors is to turn this approach on its head. Instead of looking first to who made the error, start by asking why the action was taken. This technique has taught us many lessons:

  • The right actions taken for the wrong reason highlight a gap in training and illustrate that we have not appropriately matched the person to the job. “Policy” type errors can be prevented by improving knowledge, education and conducting skilled based training on the job
  • Following the right procedure and ending up with an error highlights an out of date, redundant or flawed procedure or checklist. While a staff member offering “But I followed the process” will often raise red flags, in a transformed and systemised business, this should sound alarms, rather than be alarming. “Procedure” type errors can be prevented by regularly reviewing and updating procedures, conducting training with staff and maintaining a robust compliance regime
  • Once you have eliminated Policy and Procedure as the cause of the error, you can now consider the People aspect. People based errors can be the result of a multitude of issues, but by looking at what was done (rather than who did it) you can begin to identify gaps in training, recruitment and even in processes and checklists. In our experience, training, skills/experience, application and aptitude are at the core of People based errors

Unfortunately, none of these measures will address the impact on the client as a result of an error being made. While they will assist you in uncovering the cause of the error, effectively reducing errors is more about prevention than reactive treatment. In other words, you need to work ON your business to eliminate likely, potential and actual sources of errors in order to reduce their frequency.

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