Scott Hodge



Apr 30, 2005

We all make mistakes.  But how do we keep from making the same mistakes over and over again? 

The Spring 2005 issue of Strategy + Business has some great tips on how to correct a culture that breeds mistakes.  They offer six "beliefs" that are typically embedded into the culture and management systems of some of today’s best managed companies. 

These companies:

  1. Create a system to detect patterns of mistakes early and trust the data.
  2. Communicate and seek candid advice throughout the organization and from trusted outsiders.
  3. Don’t underestimate the potential damage of mistakes.
  4. Consider the unthinkable.
  5. Protect the relationship with customers at all costs.
  6. Are not passive.  (A bad situation will never go away on their own.)

I think any organization, church, school, etc… who is willing to take risks and be creative is undoubtedly going to make mistakes from time to time. 

When a mistake is made (and from the standpoint of a leader) my main concerns are going to be:

  1. Are we taking responsibility for the mistake?  (It drives me nuts when people or organizations can’t admit their mistakes or try to blame everyone else or the circumstances around them.  Perhaps a bigger question is, "Does your organization’s culture make it easy for people to admit their mistakes?")
  2. How big was the mistake and who & how many people did it affect? (or in some cases, how much money did it affect?) 
  3. Why was the mistake made (let’s learn from it) and…
  4. What can we do to make sure we don’t make the mistake again? (Let’s not only recognize why the mistake was made, let’s identify a system or new way of approaching the issue so that it doesn’t happen again.)

What do you think?  Would you add (or subtract) anything from my list?

8 Responses to “Mistakes”

  1. sandy says:

    i think that when a mistake is made, a gaudy glass clown should be presented to the mistake maker. gotcha!

  2. Gemma Grace says:

    I found, in my company, some people were deathly afraid of the word or, actually, the concept called ‘mistake’. We worked to redefine ‘mistake’ as a ‘miss-take’. A miss-take allows for a re-take.

  3. kate says:

    Be quick to identify or acknowledge your own mistakes (big and/or small) as a leader in order to set precedent. I had to do that as a teacher because kids, just like adults, do not want to admit to mistakes. I had to constantly remind my students that everyone makes mistakes, gave examples of mistakes I’ve made and how I learned from them, and encourage them to recognize mistakes as an opportunity to learn. I told them if they always knew everything and did everything perfectly, school would be boring. I suppose the same can be said of life.

  4. jamey says:

    Scott, good stuff. In my opinion i would add that people are not just afraid of making mistakes, but more so afraid of failing or FAILURE. I believe it does deep within our society. I believe the difference between average people(organizations) and achieving people(organizations) is their perception of and response to failure.

  5. Doug says:

    In the company where I work, the management has created, either deliberately or unwittingly, a spirit of fear which discourages people from coming forward with their mistakes. Sadly, the mistakes that ARE discovered are often pounced upon and made an example of by management. A pity – it doesn’t have to be this way. I try to take a cue from Bill Hybels’ (Willow Creek Community Church) teaching about leadership. He talks about leading down, leading up, and leading sideways, depending on your position within the organization. Since I’m not management, I can’t lead down, but I CAN lead up and sideways, and I try to do this to the best of my ability. Still, some days are discouraging…I just have to rely on my faith in God to get through it. And to know that God put me in that organization for a reason…

  6. Betsy says:

    Like Doug, I’ve worked in an environment where mistakes (or even perceived mistakes — you are expected to perform with no information, but are then held to the guidelines that existed but were not communicated) are harshly and publically punished. It created an environment where you ALWAYS tried to watch your back. Employees don’t want to take initiative, work as a team, or offer information. I always felt that I had to prove my intentions were good, and never communicated with superiors unless forced to for fear that I would incriminate myself or my coworkers. And this was in a church…
    On the other hand, in my present occupation, I work with companies all the time that do not seem to care that they make mistakes. Preventable mistakes. Costly mistakes. And I don’t understand that extreme either.

  7. scott says:

    wow betsy…i can’t imagine! ;-)

  8. jamey j says:

    Scott, i pick up the undertones!

Leave a Reply

  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Vimeo
  • Flickr



Top Posts