A mistake fuels a remedy
By Matthew A. Daecher
As children we learn from our mistakes when our parents scold us or an otherwise undesirable outcome presents itself. It is the same for adults. We are just more aware that an undesirable outcome may occur if we act in certain ways or follow a specific course of action.
Learning from mistakes is time-proven and certainly beneficial if the undesirable outcome alters our behavior. It is a concept incorporated into both basic and advanced safety programs. In the most basic safety programs, the simplest compliance with regulatory requirements can reduce errors that cause poor results. Any safety training program is no doubt designed and shaped by an effort to correct previous experiences and mistakes. In more advanced safety programs that utilize technology such as accident event recorders, companies use the data to identify mistakes and correct them.
Most commercial carriers are pretty good at figuring out their mistakes because they have to deal with the consequences, whether it resulted in vehicle damage, a third-party claim, injury treatment costs, worker compensation claim, or lost employee productivity. Actually learning from the mistake, however, is sometimes an afterthought. Sometimes an operator chalks up an accident to an unusual circumstance and may assume that the driver or employee would know what to do differently next time.
A thorough investigation and analysis of an incident reveals what led up to the incident, what happened during the incident and what happened afterwards. Reviewing all of these timelines with an open mind to all of the causal factors may help shed light on more than one area where changes may be made to reduce the effect of future occurrences.
U.S. Senator and acclaimed comedian Al Franken wrote:
Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.
This phrase is comical so long as you are not at the wrong end of the fatal mistake. It is also very true. While the seriousness of a fatal event is more likely to cause intense investigation, it should not be the only impetus for such an investigation.
The final step in learning from mistakes is sharing what we’ve learned. Often management will explain all that went wrong to the person involved, especially if that person’s actions were a causal factor. The opportunity is often missed to review these same teaching points with other employees who may one day find themselves in similar circumstances.
Going back to Senator Franken, we also sometimes have the opportunity to learn from serious mistakes of others. While we may not be privy to the relatively minor incidents by our peers, or even those with serious injuries, we sure are privy to the fatal accidents that receive plenty of press these days — particularly incidents involving government investigations.
When this occurs, companies learn of the causal factors and have the opportunity to review both their practices in similar areas as well as the knowledge base of their employees. They can make adjustments to try to avert a similar occurrence within their operations, but many simply read these items and thank higher ups that it wasn’t them. What does your company do? BR
Matthew A. Daecher is president and CEO of Daecher Consulting Group, Inc., Camp Hills, PA.