What do you do when your company makes a mistake?

Sep 8, 2020

How do you handle it when your company makes a mistake?

Everybody makes mistakes. How you handle the aftermath is far more important than the mistake itself. 

Several years ago, we lost two years’ worth of working files in our graphics department. Our hard drive crashed, and only then did we discover that due to a miscommunication with our network provider, they had been doing regular backups on an old graphics archive, not on the drive containing the files we worked on every day.  

They thought they were backing up the right data. We thought they were backing up the right data. We were both wrong.

OUCH. We had backups that were about two years old, but any artwork that we did in the intervening timeframe would have to be reconstructed from samples, proofs, and press files.  

The way you handle mistakes matters more than the things you get right.

Our issue with our provider was big, but not insurmountable.

I wish I could say our provider did a great job working through the issue with us. I wish I could say they communicated proactively and made us feel confident that we were in the right hands. (If they had, we would probably still be working with them.) 

When something big like that happens, it’s a natural impulse to try to find fault. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s useful or true. Pointing fingers after something goes wrong is not just useless, it’s counterproductive.  

By putting responsibility for a problem on someone else, you’re giving away your own power to do anything about it. 

People make mistakes. Nobody performs 100% perfectly 100% of the time. It’s what you do next that defines your future. 

So what do you do when your company makes a mistake?

Do you blame the customer? Do you rationalize the mistake? Or worse, try to hide it? Or do you take ownership immediately, do whatever it takes to rectify the situation, and look for ways to do better next time? 

Internally, do you try to find someone to blame? Do you jump all over the person who made the mistake, making everyone less likely to stick their neck out next time? Or do you see it as an opportunity to make your processes and training better?  

We’ve made mistakes at SOLV. We will again. We own it, we fix it, and we improve.  

Tracy Lay

by Tracy Lay

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