How to Fix a Mistake at Work using Process

What do you do when an employee makes a mistake at work that affects your clients and reputation?

When the shit storm has officially arrived, and as you prepare to hit the panic button, you may wonder:

“How can I fix this immediate problem, and prevent it in the future?”

It’s funny you should ask! We messed up for our clients last month in a not-insignificant way, but once the mistake happened, the only thing that mattered was the solution.

The solution? Create a process for handling work blunders. If you want to avoid that unique anxiety from a mistake at work, keep reading for a step-by-step strategy to fix your workflow and gain peace of mind!

🚨Sound the Alarm: A Mistake at Work Happened and You’re a Mess. Now what?

After an incident, it’s easy to beat yourself up or blame yourself for not knowing better. But let’s be honest– mistakes happen whether we like it or not! It’s how we take action in the aftermath that matters.

So, take a deep breath and focus on the next logical solution–fixing your workflow. You can achieve this by:

  • Creating a Process map to identify the current steps in the process…and where the error occurred
  • Systemizing your business with a decision tree (like the one we’re sharing today 😉)
  • Joining ProcessDriven Foundations to build centralized business processes, with support and Members-only resources along the way

That’s all to say: there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, even when work mistakes happen, and everything feels like it’s on fire. 🫠

A process for managing these mistakes can be a game-changer in your business! Here’s a comprehensive glimpse of our “Shit Happened. Now What?” strategy inspired by a real-world example.

Quick note: See something that feels like it wouldn’t work the best for your flow? No worries, just implement the change you’d like to see, document it, measure it, and then re-visit to determine its effectiveness!

Step 1: Explore the Origins of the Work Mistake

Remember that scene from The Matrix when Morpheus gives Neo a choice between the red and blue pill, and the decision will alter the course of Neo’s life? Well, our strategy begins the same way, with two choices determining the next steps in resolving the issue. 💊

First, consider how you initially found out about the work mistake. 

  • Did you discover the mistake?
  • Did you hear about it from another coworker?
  • Did you hear directly from the staff member who made the error?

If you discovered it from another employee, it’s time to initiate step 2: adding a discussion point to the next 1:1 check-in. 

*If the person who made the mistake confides in you, the course of action will change, and we’ll touch on that process later in the post, so stay tuned… 👀*

🎬 Need a visual? Check out the video at timestamp 2:00 to see this step in action.

Step 2: Start the Problem-Solving Conversation

Communication and accountability are vital to resolving issues. Once you discover a mistake, add a discussion point to the weekly agenda. Nothing is more awkward than pretending a blaring problem doesn’t exist. 🐘

The goal of discussing a work mistake isn’t to shame or punish anyone! Instead, it’s about taking steps to fix the issue and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Think of it as a learning opportunity for everyone!

Step 3: Identify the Issue with a Capital “I”

Once you address the work error, log it in your tool of choice as an Issue task, aka an action item. An Issue task highlights an emergency in your business that requires swift action. For example, if your house is on fire, you better call 911 ASAP. Similarly, an Issue task notifies your team that a problem exists and needs a resolution. 

Documenting a mistake at work ensures your team can respond quickly and appropriately to the current predicament. Now, you’re approaching the next crossroads in the strategy:  

If the mistake is logged as an issue, the rest of the team is aware of it and has initiated a process to fix it. 

If the Issue task is NOT created, then set aside time to do that!

Step 4: Determine Whether or Not It’s an Ongoing Issue

Now that you’ve established an Issue task, ask yourself, “Have we fixed the problem and logged it in, or is it a common work mistake?”

For instance, emailing your audience at the wrong time once is not an ongoing issue. Unfortunate and annoying? Sure. But it’s a one-time incident. But, if it becomes emailing your audience at the wrong time every week for 3 weeks, then it’s safe to say it’s an ongoing issue.

Once you determine the issue’s state and resolution process, it’s time to transition to the next step of the strategy: Delegating the task.

Step 5: Assign the Issue Task

Having a team to depend on when things go awry is a big relief! In this case, consider if the person responsible for the work mistake can solve the issue. If they’re available and willing to help, that’s a major win because they can:

  • Learn from the situation
  • Improve their workflow process
  • Adapt when things don’t go as planned (because they rarely do!)

If the initiator can step up to the plate, assign the task to them. If not, delegate it to another team member.

🎬 Fast forward to timestamp 5:54 in the video to learn how Layla stepped in when a mistake happened at ProcessDriven.

Step 6: Acknowledge the Mistake

Yep, you heard that right! We’re not sweeping it under the rug. Instead, we’re facing it head-on. Honesty is the best rule of thumb, especially if a work mistake threatens your clients’ trust. Acknowledge it publicly with a simple message like: 

“Yes, you’re right. There is a mistake, and we’re working on it as quickly as possible.” 

People appreciate transparency, so don’t be afraid to own up to work blunders when they occur! Then, post a note inside the issue task letting your team know about the announcement’s status. You can also leave a comment with a link for reference: 

“Hey, I wrote an apology. Here’s the link: [link to the announcement here].” 

🎬 Head to the video at timestamp 6:52 for more context.

Step 7: Stop the Bleeding and Make Up for It

As business owners, a big mistake can feel like a bleeding wound! But when issues pop up, it’s helpful to have a first-aid kit ready to go (aka a Process!🙂) to treat the wound. 

How you stop the bleeding will depend on your circumstances, but it may include the following: 

  • Double-checking links in the future
  • Un-publishing a page
  • Setting up a redirect URL
  • Sharing a public apology with the steps you’re taking to fix the problem

Whatever you need to do to prevent additional damage, do it. ✅

A formal statement is an excellent start but doesn’t compensate for lost time. So, how do you make up for wasted time?

ProcessDriven Storytime 

In our case, we messed up the dates for a virtual event where we had one calendar date in our system, and our clients had a different date. Imagine our disturbing discovery when we realized people were in the waiting room for 15-20 minutes for a virtual event that wasn’t meant to happen yet. 😱 

How did we make up for this, after all immediate swearing and deep breaths were done?

💡 Simple: We created a convenient way to deliver the same promise as the online event, plus a little bit more!

We kept the original date from our system and opened a live chat for three days so our community could ask questions and share feedback. Doing this meant adding extra tasks to monitor and regularly engage with the group chat, but it was well worth it!

Summary: Once you stop the bleeding, the next step is to implement additional actions to make up for it (and then some).

🎬 Watch the video at timestamp 7:46 to review the bleeding and task section of the strategy.

Step 8: Double-Check Corrective Action  

After experiencing a mistake at work with high stakes, you probably want to avoid repeating it! That’s why it’s essential to be proactive with corrective action rather than falling into a Groundhog’s Day loop.

In our instance, we employed multiple corrective actions, like:  

  • Changing the schedule of the event to be more consistent 
  • Incorporating automated tools to avoid human error
  • Eliminating duplicate areas for data entry

Nothing pisses us off more than making the same mistake twice, especially when there’s a simple solution like a process strategy to guide the way.

With the proper corrective action, every mistake becomes an opportunity to improve what you do, and how you do it! 🌅

Step 9: Breathe and Find a Resolution  

If you’ve been holding your breath like a kid going in a tunnel, you can finally breathe again. Yay, you crossed the finishing line! At this point, you’ll want to close the Issue task whether or not there’s corrective action. 

If the employee who caused the error needs to take care of the corrective action, you can reassign a comment or create a task for the team member to update them on the issue and request their help with its resolution.  

Feel free to use the following template:

“Hey (insert employee’s name here), I’ve done the following to help with the issue [insert concise, fair description of actions taken so far]. Let’s identify a solution: Would you mind creating a corrective action or preventative measure to ensure this can’t happen again?”

This comment marks a resolution to the work mistake. ✅

Revisiting the Origins of the Work Mistake: What Happens When the Responsible Party Recognizes the Issue?

Remember the scenario we mentioned way back in Step 1 of this post? Let’s backtrack and discuss what to do in this situation. 

  • Respond with gratitude: Work blunders are frustrating, but it’s also essential to celebrate accountability. Consider posting the following message in a public forum: 

“Shoutout to[insert employee’s name here] for demonstrating and embracing responsibility by identifying and bringing an issue to my attention regarding ________________.”

  • Check in to see whether or not the responsible worker solved the issue: If they attempted to resolve the problem themself, return to the natural flow of the process strategy, starting with Step 3: Identify the Issue with a Capital “I”. 
  • Encourage them to fix the issue: If they didn’t try to solve the work mistake, offer encouragement and nudge them to consider measures to achieve a resolution.
  • Recruit some support: Let’s say the employee can’t figure out what to do. In this case, have them ask a fellow team member for help. 

As long as there’s a possibility of fixing an issue, lead with encouragement and guidance! 💪

🎬 You can also skip to timestamp 12:30 in the video for a recap on this part of the strategy.   

The Next Time a Mistake at Work Happens, You’ll Be Ready! 

We covered a lot of ground in this post, so if you’re still trying to absorb everything, here’s a summary of our process strategy for handling work mistakes:

  • Explore the origins of the work issue
  • Start the problem-solving conversation
  • Identify the Issue with a capital “I”
  • Determine whether or not it’s an ongoing issue
  • Assign the Issue task
  • Acknowledge the mistake
  • “Stop the bleeding”
  • Double-check corrective action
  • Find a resolution 

Imagine saving yourself from stress and headaches after implementing a step-by-step strategy like this. Sounds unrealistic? Not really! Snag our free Mistake Resolution Process so you and your team can manage bumps in the road with clear direction.  

If you want to go one step further, consider joining ProcessDriven Foundations to learn how to establish a centralized business process that ensures your systems work for you, and not the other way around! 

Thanks for sticking with us through a long read, and as always, enjoy the process!

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