Monday, 9 January 2017

What to do if you make a mistake at work

Mistakes are made by individuals but lack of processes is often to blame.  This post looks at making mistakes work, why we make them, how to avoid them and what to do if you make a mistake.
Human instinct is driven by fear
  • we fear being attacked
  • we fear starving
  • we fear losing our job
  • we fear death.
The reason fear is so successful is because it lead our ancestors to survive because a false alarm won't kill you but a hungry a lion would (might).  If you are constantly fearful of something you will pro-actively try to avoid it.  This behaviour in the long should mean you come face to face with a lion.
At work most of us don't have to worry about hungry lions (unless you are a lion tamer) but we can make mistakes and sometimes we can make great big huge mistakes.

Making mistakes

As a CRM developer I have noticed one of the traits of senior developers is they make fewer mistakes, often acting as calm captain navigating a ship through stormy waters.  Senior developers are good at anticipating problems looming on the horizon and safely side stepping them before they become problems.
Senior developers have learnt (often the hard way) when doing releases to a customer live system to have check-lists, go one step at a time and back everything up.
We can fear mistakes, take precautions which can reduce the probability of making mistakes.

How to avoid making mistake

Mistakes aren't inevitable but it's likely you will make a mistake at some point in your career
One of the cause of mistakes is familiarity which is the genesis for this popular quotation
Familiarity breeds contempt
CRM developers have to deploy customizations to the a customers live environment, over time you will do a lot of deployments.   The more deployments a developer does the more it becomes familiar and boring.  
The familiarity of deploying to the live environment has the danger of making the developer take their eyes of the ball and increase chance of making a mistake.


Take things slowly, rushing leads to mistakes

A common cause of problems is rushing and missing steps.  Give yourself time when doing potentially risky tasks

Prepare well

Preparation helps you think and prepare for the task ahead.  Getting things ready ahead of time will give you more time when the pressure is on.

use check-lists

Check lists are a great tool to help avoid missing out important steps when you are doing tasks.

Do a pre mortem

A pre mortem is like a post mortem except you do it before the event and target areas of potential problem

avoid personal/people issue

Most tasks involve dealing with people, try to ensure there are no personal issues which take the focus away from the task and towards people.

What do to if you make a mistake

Admit it quickly

The quicker you admit a mistake the more time there is to rectify the mistake.  Admitting a mistake is painful but your colleagues will respect you more if you own up and help clean up rather than waiting and trying to hide the evidence.
Not admitting a mistake is a bigger mistake.

Owning up

If there is a chance the customer or someone can find the mistake it's better to tell them than letting them find it.
If you are proactive you have a chance to own up to the mistake and propose a solution.  Having a ready made solution makes the problem seem a lot smaller.
If a mistake is found the person who found the mistake can panic and starting thinking of worse case scenarios.  Customers finding problems can lead to full blown red alert escalations of small manageable problems.

Create Processes

Mistakes are caused by individuals but it’s often the lack of processes where the blame really lies.
Quickly move pass blaming individuals and work out how to resolve the issue and keep the customer happy.
When the dust has settled you can analyse why the mistake was allowed to happen and put in processes, check lists and double checking.  


 If you make a mistake own up quickly but with key information
  • Why the mistake happen
  • The scope of the mistake
  • A list of possible solutions to present to the customer
  • Does the customer know/will they find out
The quicker you own up the more time you have to resolve the mistake.
If someone else makes a mistake your initial response should be to quickly work on a resolution to the mistake, analyse the cause and probability the mistake could happen again as secondary concern.  

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