Quality and the ‘2-Hour Mistake’


By Jason Quick

According to a survey performed by Harvard Business Review, it was reported that it takes on average, two hours to correct a mistake made in quality operations. When we extrapolate that out over an entire organisation and its workforce, that potentially equates to a significant financial burden, just to fix a bunch of unintended consequences - and that doesn’t address the impact on reputational risk either.

What if there was a better way? What if the mistakes weren’t made to start with? Imagine having the philosophy, systems and processes in place that either eliminated or significantly reduced the potential for error in the first place.

There will always be a ‘human-error factor’ in the things we do. However, having a positive quality culture that moves beyond the standard thinking and quality tools could highly influence one’s ability to deliver real value. Even better, imagine using quality tools that had the capacity to drive positive cultural change.

Harvard Business Review believes in the ‘4 Essentials of Quality’ that mitigate mistakes, they are; maintaining a leadership emphasis on quality, ensure message credibility, encourage peer involvement and increase employee ownership and empowerment. Interesting to note is that good quality and continuous improvement software applications now incorporate many of those essentials into their functionality. Take for instance the software app ‘Continuous Improvement’, where peer involvement, acknowledgement, ownership and empowerment are embedded into the algorithm and process.

 A defining trait of an organisation with an authentic quality culture is one that gets their peers both active and involved, allowing them to apply their own judgement to situations that may otherwise fall outside of the rules. Imperative to this discretionary ability, however, is the need to document and record in real-time. This ‘quality in action’ perspective must be backed by evidence such as photos or supporting documentation. A good continuous improvement tool or software application should allow for this, including the rationale for any corrective actions.

Furthermore, software applications that promote acknowledgement and empowerment have the ability to positively influence quality culture. They essentially set up ‘micro-competitions’, which capitalise on the fact that exceptional quality outcomes are publicised alongside more typical data, such as KPI’s and standard benchmarking.

An organisation that has a positive culture toward quality is one where employees are, first and foremost, equipped with the correct mindset, skill-set and quality focus. They are encouraged to make decisions in ambiguous areas of their work and supported and guided to reflect about the risks and payoffs of their decisions and actions – all of which are captured using the appropriate electronic tools.

A workforce that strives to achieve these capabilities, as well as one that embraces quality as a core value throughout the organisation won’t just avoid the 2-hour mistake, it will also become one that will maintain a competitive advantage and add real value to its service delivery.