people, man, alone

Why are mistakes being made in my business?

If you’ve clicked onto this article then chances are that you’ve got a problem to solve, more than likely you’ve become frustrated with things not being done right in your business. A business owner came to me with this very same problem not too long ago and I thought it would be a great topic to share with you.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

First we need to understand what “not being done right” means. Does it mean that the task is getting done, but there’s a mistake? Or does it mean that the task is not getting done at all?

Are the instructions written down?

You might be thinking “why should I write it down?… If I tell someone to do something they should do it!”. If that’s the case then remember that you clicked this article for a reason, what you have been doing isn’t working and… my golden rule is: An action unwritten is just a request.

If you’ve just told them verbally then there’s a chance it can be misunderstood, even if it seems completely obvious to you. For example, unbelievably there are 7 ways to interpret this sentence “I didn’t say you stole the money”, depending on which word you stress and each with its own unique set of consequences.

Hopefully, we’re not trying to solve a problem of money going missing in your business, but this does prove that verbal communication by itself is flawed.

There can be no question that if something is written down it becomes more concrete. That’s not to say that written instructions can’t be misconstrued (ever become frustrated with IKEA instructions?).

Write out what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by and who is responsible. Now see how it goes, I guarantee you will see an improvement because now the team have a clear point of reference to understand if they are doing something right or wrong.

I have written instructions but people still make mistakes!

Who do you know that wants to make a mistake on purpose? I’ll give you a hint… hopefully no one! So with that in mind there must be a reason mistakes are still being made and the people most likely to give you the answer are the people involved.

We don’t want to create a blame culture, so make it known that nobody is going to get into trouble for making a mistake, it’s just an opportunity to improve the way we work. So ask the team what went wrong and what would be a better way to work in the future? If it’s not already obvious then you can ask them if there is a problem with the instructions.

Now that you have an idea of what went wrong you can ask the team to come up with solutions to stop it happening again. The secret here is that your staff will have the answers. Make sure you give them praise for their ideas as this will help proactive problem solving become part of their day to day routine.

Example problem and ideas: “I just keep forgetting to send the report”… Can we setup a reminder? Can the report be sent automatically? Can we use a shared folder so the report doesn’t need to be sent at all? Is the report still needed?…

Finally, you’ll need to put their suggestions into action which might mean updating the written processes and the daily routine. Don’t be resistant to change, nothing is permanent and this is a really positive step forward. It will show everyone that they are listened to and that it’s worth participating in improvement opportunities.

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain so give it a try and see what impact the changes have? If it happens again just try another solution and you’ll eventually find the one that solves it permanently.


So now you’ve got an approach to fixing recurring problems it’s time to put it into action! Understand what the problems is, why is it happening, never blame your team and solve the problem together.

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