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Make your mistakes count, here’s why

As a startup it is inevitable that you’ll make some choices during the early days that might not be ideal.

While some of these may be little more than an inconvenience, others may cause a huge set back or lead to you diving into your precious startup capital again and again.

While you can’t avoid mistakes you can use the experience to learn, and hopefully never make the same mistakes again. Where do you start though? Surely reliving the pain of the experience once is enough?

Follow this process and you’ll not only have a great resource to look back on in the event of future incidents but it will guide you through how to use your mistakes as a road map to improve your business. Take a deep breath and dive back in, the benefits are worth it.

What happened? 

While it may be crystal clear in your mind at the moment, what about in 6 months time, 3 years time? Odds are you won’t remember the incident clearly. Document what happened, when it happened, who it involved. This is a facts only account of what happened.

What was done to fix it immediately? 

Did you call a client? Did you replace a product? Make a note of what you did to try to fix the situation after it first happened. Did you give one client their money back and the next had to wait for a replacement. This will help with consistency.

Why did it really happen?

While you may believe that the problem was due to human error, look more closely and you may be surprised. Why did they make the mistake? Did they have sufficient training? Was there a checklist they could follow? Were they making decisions outside their expertise? Blaming the person involved rarely fixes the problem. Getting to the underlying issue is the most important part of this process. Unless you address the underlying issue there’s a good chance the same issue will happen in the future.

Are further fixes required to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

Now that you’ve worked out why it happened, what measure can you put in place to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again. Can you arrange some training? Change responsibilities in the business? Implement a check by a second person? Write some instructions? These should help to address the underlying issue.

Are there any similar business processes that could benefit?

While the issue may have happened in order processing, is there another part of the business where a similar situation could occur? Now’s an excellent time to prevent that from happening. What measures could you put in place? By implementing fixes in other parts of the business at the same time you can avoid addressing the same problem occurring in another area.

Check-up time…

While it may seem that you’ve done your job after you’ve implemented these fixes there’s one more thing to do. Make sure that you revisit what you’ve done after the fixes have been in place for a while. Have there been any more issues?  Has the fix created other issues that perhaps you didn’t think of? When you make sure the changes made were effective your job is done – until next time.

Remember that this document will only be useful if you can refer to it again, think about what format will work best for you and your business.

Instead of going around and around in circles, by taking the time to carefully assess what went wrong, implementing fixes that truly address the underlying cause and revisiting and reviewing the effectiveness of those fixes you can be confident that you will have a better, more robust process because of it. You haven’t just learned from the mistake, you’ve conquered it.

Do you take time to reflect on your business mistakes? What has been your best learning?

What do you think?

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Mary Gardam

Mary Gardam

Mary Gardam is the Principal Quality Advisor at LogiQA, a Brisbane based consultancy helping small business access the benefits of systemisation. She has previously held a number of senior quality roles across health and scientific sectors and also lectures in Quality Systems at Griffith University.

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