Too Busy to Anticipate Problems?

I was walking down the jet way listening to my voice mail.

“Records indicate you have not checked in for your flight.  If you do not contact us within 24 hours, your trip will be cancelled.”

Impossible, I thought.  I am getting on the plane.  Surely it’s a mistake.

When I arrived at my destination, I sent a note to the airline explaining their error to them, and double-checked my online reservation to make sure it wasn’t cancelled.  All was well.  However, when I tried to print my return trip boarding pass two days later, my record locator showed up as inactive.

I was livid.

I called the airline and explained that I had traveled on the flight and they cancelled my return ticket by mistake.  And, noting my elite status, I indignantly requested they not only reinstate my ticket, but they also provide some other compensation for my trouble.

“One moment sir.” Was the reply.

I sat getting more agitated by the second, stewing in my superiority, until the customer service agent came online once again and said, “We’re sorry, sir.  But it looks like you actually purchased two tickets for the exact same flight.  One you bought on March 16 and the other on April 4.  And, of course, you only used one of them.”

She could have saved some time and just said, “It’s your own fault, you doofus!”

After apologizing profusely and vowing to cut down on my crazy business travel schedule, I made a note to double-check my travel bookings for the next three months.  I didn’t want to make another costly error.

But errors are common when we are spread too thin.  Consider the recent error by AT&T’s attorneys that cost them over $40 million. 

By missing an appeals filing deadline, the court has ruled that AT&T must pay the settlement in full.  If your organization is dealing with overwork and overload, here are some things you can do to anticipate problems and avoid your own costly mistakes. 

  1. If everyone’s responsible, no one’s responsible – In the case of AT&T’s attorneys, shared accountability was their downfall.  In your next project, make sure tasks are assigned to individuals instead of teams.
  2. Develop contingency plans – When problems occur, we often lose time deciding on the best course of action to “stop the bleeding.”  We need to identify common pitfalls ahead of time and agree on how to prevent the problem, or at least reduce the likelihood of a problem.  By addressing the potential issues in advance, we can save valuable time and resources.
  3. Learn from your mistakes – Leaders often try to sweep mistakes under the rug in order to “save face.”  However, a more competent position is to openly admit mistakes before they become water cooler gossip, and show how you have built preventive measures into your process to avoid future issues.  This is true accountability.

At Action Management, we have been helping clients plan and implement solutions for nearly forty years.  We are experts in teaching tools and techniques for assuring projects and programs are implemented successfully.  If you would like tips on avoiding your own costly mishaps, just give us a call.  We would love to help!



















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