Errors LO12240

John Constantine (RAINBIRD@TRAIL.COM)
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 09:13:18 -0800

Replying to LO12216 --

In response to David Nelson's post in re "Errors", Daisy Patel continues a
fascinating thread:

" When you are doing a job of repetitive nature, errors tend to occur due
to oversight, over confidence, time pressure etc. When the error is
located you end up feeling oh! how could I have missed that.... So we in
the team have decided to leave the processed papers in one distinct tray.
The other team members will just glance through the papers in that tray
before they are really executed. In case of an error the same will be
corrected. We tried this and have noticed that one can locate errors in
papers being processed by other teammembers easily. This does involve some
extra time one has to spend going through papers but definately it has
minimised the errors."

Recalling many years ago the book "The Peter Principle", it seems that
something is operating in both David and Daisy's situations. Starting from
scratch, accumulating knowledge and experience and technique, an employee
(team member) becomes a valued asset by mastering his/her craft. After
that level of mastery is achieved, does the master carpenter forget that
the cornice requires a unique application of skill and precision? That
would seem illogical. What seems to be happening here is that the level of
interest goes into hibernation, not the level of skill attained.

Does the executive, having learned as much as seems necessary to run the
organization, simply put his/her feet up and go to sleep. Does he/she
reach a "level of incompetence" which acts as a detriment to the
organization? Hopefully not, but in the two scenarios mentioned, it would
appear so. Is that true? Is it boredom that creates the errors, or
something else entirely? Perhaps it would help to view the two examples
cited in light of systems applications.

1. There are no errors.
2. Assuming the paperwork is vital, all humans can become bored with
tedium, and their part of the system goes out of control.
3. Assuming the system is out of control, is it a case of special causes?
4. Assuming the team members function as "spelling checkers", is the
expenditure of time warranted, if only to gain a minute improvement?
5. Can the individuals be presented with the "errors", and shown that
they might just be slipping back in the application of the craft they
have chosen?

It would appear that an application of the Pareto principle might apply
here. Spending valuable time "correcting" others' "errors" when
alternatives might exist would not seem to be the way to go. In fact,
there is no mention of the causes, only the mention of errors and
correcting them. I recall a utility which spent multiple millions adding a
sulfur dioxide filter to improve the emission levels from 74 to 75 per
cent. The cost was passed on to the customers of the utility.

It doesn't seem like a skilled professional would be inclined to make
"errors", but it does happen all the time, in all walks of life. In
baseball, if you have to think about where to throw, you haven't achieved
a level of mastery of the game. When you DO achieve such a level, you may
STILL make an "error", but the difference is that you are PLAYING the
game, not sliding into a state of mental hibernation. I think this is what
appears to be happening in the two cases cited.

I do find the thread fascinating, nonetheless.


Regards, John Constantine Rainbird Management Consulting PO Box 23554 Santa Fe, NM 87502 "Dealing in Essentials"

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