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How to prevent a $10 error turning into a $1,000 failure

prevent a $10 error turning into a $1,000 failure

One of the aspects I love about my work is the diverse range of people I get in contact with and how much you can learn from them. A couple of weeks ago we ran a Productivity Growth Workshop, after which Frex Vincent from Glenns Glass taught me a great analogy that I have since shared with many others. It is called the $10, $100, and $1000 mistakes.

We all make mistakes. When you check your work for mistakes when you are doing the work and you pick up the error, you can fix it there and then. It will take you a bit of time and possibly some extra materials. Say this lapse costs you $10 in extra labour and materials. Inelegant, but no big deal.

Now imagine, that for whatever reason you did not fix this mistake and it is picked up by someone else on your organisation. They raise it with you, and you work together to fix this. This undoubtedly costs the company more time. It might also cost more material depending on your trade or service. The oversight has resulted in an exponential growth of the costs to fix the original fault. We call this a $100 mistake.

Worst case scenario is that the original slipup is not noticed or corrected by anyone inside the organisation and the faulty good or service reaches an unsuspecting customer. The transgression has borne another exponential growth and we are now dealing with a $1,000 problem.

Have you ever seen anything like this?

More importantly, how can we prevent $10 error turning into a $1,000 failure?

Standard Work (SW) is a Lean tool that can help you with this. Standard Work compels you to do a few checks before you start the job: Do I have what I need to do the job?

This will be specified depending on the task at hand: Is it the right shape and size? Is everything complete? Or, if you are working with forms and documents: Is it in the right format? Is it the correct version?  Standard Work then forces you to check a number of outputs before you send the work on to the next person in the organisation. When designing the work, you should include a self-check. In the unlikely event that an error does slip though these checks, it is highly likely that this omission is picked up by the standard pre-task checks of the next person in the process. Read more about this in ‘Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System’, by Steven Spear and H. Kent Bowen.

A robust system of Standard Work increases the probability that any particular failure is fixed at the source and only incurs a small monetary cost. Thereby saving the company expensive rework cost and improving customer outcomes at the same time.

Reach out to me if you want to learn more about how we can assist you to design Standard Work to help you prevent $10 error turning into a $1,000 failure.

About the author: Liddy Bakker is the Director of Knowledge Management at  Productivity People