Something went wrong for me the other day. Something to do with our time recording tool. A wonderful situation, I thought, to see how the error culture is in our company. Let’s do this!
Failure & making mistakes
Here’s what my mistake looked like: I charged preparation for a meeting to a client account. This meant that a service was invoiced, but we do not usually charge for this. The result: correcting the booking and communicating with the customer that they were not overpaying and everything was put right.
Hell is everybody else, right ?
The problem with errors is that we don’t jump for air when they happen. Rather, mistakes are fraught with a range of negative emotions: shame, self-doubt, and guilt are just a few of them. In my example, I asked myself why this faux pas actually happened to me. After all, everyone else doesn’t have timekeeping problems either. But much worse was my shame. I knew that my colleague in accounting would have more work to do because of me, and that she might have to talk to an angry customer. And? Was she angry? No! She calmly explained to me what our booking processes look like and how everything works. Even better, she offered me that we would do the next booking together. Kids, I was relieved.
Never Ending Story
If you think that was the end of error management, I have to disappoint you. I told another colleague – the one who had trained me at the time – about the situation. She made a note to herself that in future, when training new colleagues, she would make sure to use a concrete case study to better explain the booking process. Bam! Continuous improvement. Success all along the line.
My boss didn’t appear in this example, yet managers also have a part to play in establishing a positive error culture in their company. When it comes to employees’ mistakes, they have to act systematically on the factual level on the one hand, and with the necessary psychological sensitivity on the other. After all, while one colleague reacts like Teflon to criticism, another takes mistakes (or criticism) very much to heart.
In addition, it is also a matter of “looking at one’s own nose” for the top management. Managers must deal openly with their own mistakes and thus stand model. Admitting at team meetings that you misjudged a situation or made a rash decision doesn’t break anyone’s stride. Now, of course, you’re all kicking up your heels – what’s it like to be a manager at 3kubik? We actually live the Continuous Improvement Process model, we don’t just preach it. In practice, this means that we are very open when we don’t like an idea from the boss or have other suggestions for solutions. He is also very open about it. The respectful handling and positive outcome of mistakes is not always successful. It really depends on how much stress individual projects are under. But apologies are always made – even in front of the whole team!
Tips & Tricks
With the error culture it is like with so many other things in life – with humor it simply goes better! At the next team meeting, I will suggest that we choose the mistake of the week. This reduces the fear of talking about mistakes and offers the chance of a successful mistake analysis. This will benefit the whole team. I will keep you informed.