Have You Ever Made A Mistake?

When we start out with a new group in labor-management committee effectiveness training, we spend some time talking about the need for change both individually and as a group.  This is about changing behavior and that’s not easy to do.  For some groups it can be extremely difficult and it takes more time and more mistakes.

In fact, we tell both sides mistakes will happen.  That’s a definite.  We can’t wave a wand and make everything be perfect.  It doesn’t work that way but what we do ask is, “Have you personally ever made a mistake?”  Sure – everybody has and everybody survived their mistake and learned from it.  It’s the same with a labor-management committee.  Everybody will survive and everybody will learn from it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way in real life.  I was reading an article this week, The Miracle Of Mistakes, which talked about the need for mistakes.  It agreed we don’t always treat mistakes lightly especially in the workplace.  We’re conditioned to believe mistakes mean failure and nobody likes to fail.  In fact, that’s why it’s difficult for some to embrace employee engagement because they’re afraid mistakes will occur.  If we make too many mistakes, look out!  We’re branded forever!  And that means added pressure – try and overcome our image!

Let’s go back and look at mistakes another way.  It’s a good thing babies don’t understand the word “mistake.”  Can you imagine if they did?  They probably wouldn’t learn to walk.  Another example is think about when you were learning to ride a bike.  How many mistakes did you make before you were actually able to ride it?

How can mistakes be good for businesses?  Taking risks can actually help make good decisions.  As bizjournals pointed out it helps develop creativity and that can help make the organization stronger.  That’s important as organizations are facing more and more competition.  It also can help to reduce turnover and the costs associated with it.  Employees prefer workplaces where they can take risks and learn new things which happens from having the freedom to make blunders.  If we treat blunders as failures through their actions it demoralizes staff which can also create a loss of productivity.

According to the  American Psychological Association, when people don’t have the pressure of failure placed on them, they actually do better on the job.  Training can be more effective when mistakes are allowed.  In addition, it also helps to control emotions.   This makes a lot of sense since they are not being blamed for failure and that pressure is removed.

The article also says both problem solving and organizational skills are enhanced.  This, too, makes sense especially with workplaces who engage their employees.  Our experience has been those organizations that encouraged training and team involvement have seen employee skills improve.  The labor-management committees we have worked with that have been most successful are those that haven’t been afraid to take on more difficult projects just as the APA article suggests.

Good, specific problem solving processes,  such as Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act, include steps to review or try different outcomes to help determine the one that may be more appropriate.  This can mean risks or mistakes may be made.  Again, it’s encouraging creativity and taking away the pressure of failure.  It’s important to remember Dr. Deming said many of the problems that occurred in organizations were the result of the system and not people.

On the Deming Institute’s web site, there is one quote from Dr. Deming that is particularly appropriate to end this blog on the topic of mistakes as failures:  “….Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort.” (http://quotes.deming.org/)

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About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at http://calmc.org
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