FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | Mistake
Upon leaving my client earlier this afternoon, I found myself in the middle of a long 2-hour drive back to the Baltimore airport, growing hungrier by the minute since I had not yet eaten lunch. I randomly pulled off an exit in the middle of Maryland that displayed a Chik-fil-A sign – one of my favorite fast food outlets. The road to the restaurant wound around for a couple of miles before I came upon my destination. I decided to go in and stretch my legs, visit the restroom, and order at the counter. The cashier no sooner gave me my order when it occurred to me; I had no idea where I was.
I sheepishly told the woman helping me that I had a rather unusual question. Then I asked her, “Where exactly am I?”
“Hagerstown, Maryland!” she promptly replied.
There I was, making good time on my trek to the terminal. The rainy, foggy weather wasn’t creating any insurmountable travel issues. In checking my iPhone along the way, my flight appeared to be on time. And now I had lunch. Everything was good, right? Everything, except the fact that I didn’t know where I was.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey once commented on what a shame it is in life for one to be climbing the ladder of success, quickly arriving at the top, only to discover the proverbial ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. My situation was a little different, however. I knew where I was headed. I knew that my overall path would get me there. However, I took a brief detour to satisfy a need, and in the process got “lost.”
Here’s what I learned from this experience:
- It’s okay to make a wrong turn every once in a while, as long as you aren’t too proud to ask for directions. Feedback is your lifeline; do everything you can to create feedback systems at all levels in your organization.
- Everyone’s path to success will be slightly – if not dramatically – different. All roads lead to BWI. Be deliberate about drafting and living by YOUR mission.
- Constantly evaluating your progress will ensure you learn from your mistakes and allow you to more quickly realign your efforts with your mission. Be relentless about your weekly and daily planning routine.
Arguably the best take-away from this experience is knowing, I’ve got a friend in Hagerstown! Perhaps deliberately getting lost should be part of every journey…
In the world of manufacturing, the “Toyota Way” has always been held up as the epitome of lean and six-sigma manufacturing. One of the more prominent concepts in lean is called the Andon Cord.
The andon cord is literally a cord that workers can pull – a cord they should pull – any time something in the manufacturing process goes wrong that would compromise the quality of the product or safety of the people. The line stops immediately. Everyone’s attention is turned to the problem. Everyone helps to solve the problem. And the line doesn’t restart until the problem’s been fixed, thus ensuring that zero scrap or defects are allowed to perpetuate.
Some have called auto manufacturers’ recent recall woes, pulling “the big andon cord.” Although I’m sure these events will weigh on their reputation and short-term sales, righting wrongs is never bad for long-term business.
It’s remarkable to me how many of the 13 Behaviors from our Speed of Trust practice are manifest in the actions being taken by industry lately to fix these gaps in reliability and consumer confidence.
- Confront Reality
- Talk Straight
- Right Wrongs
- Get Better
- Practice Accountability
- Show Loyalty
- Deliver Results
And the list goes on.
Each of us can take a lesson from this industry “time-out.” I’ve gained a greater appreciation for stepping back from the line and fixing things the right way when they go wrong. Individuals and teams can “pull the andon cord” and avoid a path of perpetual mediocrity.
A few years ago, my team and I were working feverishly on creating hundreds of training documents for the dozens of different positions across a complex and dispersed workforce. It wasn’t until after scores of freshly published training procedures had been implemented that we realized the format of the documents didn’t meet the expectations of the organization’s own quality control standards. As painful as it was to admit the mistake and redo much of the effort that had been expended, we vowed to immediately notify management, correct the faulty documents, and promise to meet a revised (albeit still challenging) deadline. Pulling the andon cord was the right thing to do.
The trust that comes from owning up to a mistake early on and taking swift corrective action is a much better alternative than the suspicion that comes from trying to get away with a mistake that is later discovered by someone else. In fact, it is ideal to create a culture where people are actively looking for mistakes in order to pull the cord.
The sooner we fail, the sooner we succeed. Don’t be afraid to pull the andon cord.