Saturday, April 25, 2009

To err is human

As Albert Einstein noted, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

However, from a print production business perspective it's always helpful to learn the cause when mistakes happen since it can reveal what needs to be improved in the production process.

The three most common ways people make errors are:

Perception-based. These occur when there is incomplete or ambiguous information. For example: “We need a quote on a four-page folder” could mean many different things. Perception-based errors can be avoided by providing clear and distinctive instructions, standardizing instructions, and avoiding assumptions intended to fill in missing information.

Decision-based. These occur because of stress, pre-existing biases, assumptions, and over-confidence. This type of error can be avoided by using checklists, decision trees, and go-no-go flow charts.

Knowledge-based. These occur due to a lack of knowledge, information, and/or poor communication. These can be avoided by standardizing terms and operational conventions as well as through formal training.

Determining and documenting the source of mistakes helps clarify whether issues are random, intermittent, systemic, or trending in some way. This clarification informs your decisions. The goal being, not to make the same mistake twice.

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