Dec 23, 2011

Actually, quality is in the ‘Details’! I guess more care should have been taken during the review of my article this week! It probably would have saved me a little bit of embarrassment!

However, in the rush to deliver the thousand other items on my to-do list, I guess I missed it. “Guess I missed it.” Is that a simple statement about the task at hand...or does it reflect on an attitude in general? Either way, in the business world, that response to an error most likely will not fly! An acknowledgement of the mistake makes it no less of a mistake or any more excusable. However, I can learn from it in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

There could be many reasons why things slip through the cracks. The aforementioned humungous to-do list, the distractions of the office (or home life), the lack of knowledge on a topic or barriers thrown up in front of us that we simply can’t avoid are all reasons why we may not achieve the attention to detail that is expected or required of us. Sometimes, these things can’t be avoided, but the risk of not catching a mistake should be mitigated.

If you find yourself making common mistakes, or somehow lacking in quality, ask yourself whether this is an isolated incident or whether it’s something occurring more often than not. If it’s a repeating issue, you may have to look into processes at your company to determine what steps need to be taken to alleviate the situation. Ask yourself some questions! “Why did I miss that?” “Why do I keep missing that?” “How did it slip through?” “Is it me or something else?” Perhaps additional training in company processes is required or how to use your tools properly, or maybe just better understanding the expectations of the project at hand. Or maybe more simply, you need to be giving the task at hand more attention.

A short term solution may be as simple as having a co-worker provide a peer review for your work before it reaches the client. I recall an exercise during a job interview I had where the interviewees were tasked at finding all of the spelling mistakes in a paragraph in an allotted amount of time. And it followed that famous “80/20” rule. On the first sweep through, most of us found 80% of the errors, but left 20% behind. Perhaps a second review would catch the remaining 20%! In the end, the client may not (does not?) care that you caught the first 80% of the mistakes if the last 20% still get through.

Imagine for a moment an airline pilot who gets everything right 80% of the time…and relies on his co-pilot to catch the next 20%. Would you want to be on the flight where the co-pilot wasn’t present? The intent of the peer review however, is not to catch the first 80% of mistakes…but the remaining 20% that were simply missed. The plane will always still need a pilot!!!

If your mistakes have been pointed out to you, make sure you take full advantage of that!!! Obviously, it’s preferable to put your best foot forward first and make a good impression the first time around for a project, but it’s significantly LESS desirable to NOT impress on subsequent attempts! Getting it right the first time is the key!

Where does quality improvement take us? With the state of the economy the way it is, businesses are expecting more for less. As a result, businesses are trying to make processes more efficient and profitable. Peer reviews may add time to a project, however, imagine the amount of rework time and negative client relations that could be saved in the investment. Today, everyone’s time is money, so the fewer mistakes that get through in the first place contribute to higher efficiency! And remember, in most cases, peer reviews offer a short term solution. They are by no means meant to be the first line of defence for poor quality, but a measure put in place until initial quality levels rise to excellence.

Excellence should be a state of mind. In a corporate environment, quality isn’t confined to the elimination of errors. It’s a way of life. It shows in your demeanor in the office, the appearance of your work environment and how you carry yourself. This not only sets the tone for quality work, but communicates to potential and existing clients that you take what you do very seriously and with pride.

Try to remember a point in time where you delivered a high quality product to a client and the feeling of satisfaction it gave you. Focus on that feeling and strive for excellence in everything you deliver at work (and in every aspect of life). I’ll leave you with that thought as I try to line up someone to review my next article for me!