Should You Mistake-Proof Your Business?

Should you mistake-proof your business? Now, what kind of a question is that? Think about it. How much efficiency and productivity does your business lose every time a mistake is made? How sure your customers affected when a mistake has occurred that affects them personally? How much money is your business losing because mistakes and errors are occurring?

Mistakes? They’re all around us. They occur every day. Don’t believe it? Just look in any Sunday paper at the corrections listed by various retail stores. Products have not arrived on time, or maybe not at all. The prices advertised were wrong. Then there are the recalls—cars, children’s toys—you name it, most likely caused by some kind of mistake, error, or other problem somewhere in the manufacture, distribution, or marketing of the products. Much of the time we swear at them, we blame them on Murphy’s Law, or we simply might accept them as one of nature’s little glitches.

But, you know what? Customers hate mistakes and recalls! It’s bad business, it costs big dollars and, worst of all, it costs good will. When was the last time YOU got mad at a business for not delivering what they promised? Did you tell your friends? Did you go back to that business?

You get the point. Mistakes in the workplace can ruin a business. Regaining lost trust is a lot harder than gaining it in the first place.

Can mistakes really be prevented? Yes, they can.

Most businesses operate by using a series of step-by-step processes. Whether you are manufacturing a product, providing a service, working in an office, or doing anything else in your business, a series of steps is normally required to complete any particular task. And, in any series of steps, mistakes can occur. Some mistakes can be made because of poor design, some because of poor equipment, and many are caused by the people doing the job.

The problem is that most businesses do not understand how to prevent mistakes from occurring. It’s really pretty simple, but if you don’t know how to do it, mistakes will continue to cause problems.

Mistake proofing is not an art, but is a science. It’s kind of a “no-brainer” science, but a science nonetheless. There is a step-by-step process involved that’s easy to follow and prioritizes the importance of mistakes and any other problems in the workplace. This prioritizing step is extremely important, because it allows everyone to agree on what problems should be addressed first. The lack of prioritization is often the stumbling block in problem solving, because people have trouble agreeing on which problems are the most critical and require immediate attention, and which ones can wait until later.

The consequences of failing to mistake proof your business can be devastating. You may not think much about it, but whenever a major error occurs, after you deal with it, do you have a real, formalized method to make sure it never happens again? Do you have a system in place to deal with all of the other potential errors that do occur or might occur in your workplace? What are these mistakes and errors costing your business—hundreds or thousands of dollars, not to mention the stress, grief, and morale problems?

The whole idea is to mistake proof your business processes so that any errors that are occurring in them or might occur in the future are designed out of the processes so that they simply CANNOT happen.

Just think of the gain in productivity, efficiency, quality, morale, and cost savings your company would see if every process ran smoothly virtually all the time.

The impact on your company would be enormous!

Unfortunately, not many companies are even aware that there are formal mistake proofing techniques readily available to help them.

So, just how does a company being to mistake proof their operations? Well, first of all, there are a few things to keep in mind.

•Mistake proofing can be used by individuals, but works best in teams, since the team members know the most about their own jobs. Virtually all of the input in a mistake proofing session is from the team members; the processes, the problems, and the solutions.

•Mistake proofing works on processes and systems that are 1) currently in place, that is 2) being changed or improved, or that are 3) in the development stage. In other words, mistake proofing works just about anywhere in business!

•Mistake proofing is not only very easy and effective, but it’s FUN, as well. And after a process has been mistake proofed, everyone has a feeling of great satisfaction. And who wouldn’t want that?

Bottom line: Mistake-proofing your business will provide so many benefits that you will wonder how you ever got along without it.
Steve Royal is President and Founder of Royal Associates, and is a seasoned veteran in the elimination of mistakes in the workplace. Royal Associates has developed an effective mistake-proofing process for businesses which is available on an interactive CD-ROM. More information is available at

Steve Royal