Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pay Attention!

Maria Shriver is caught on camera talking on her cell phone while driving her vehicle. Not only have the Mythbusters (of Discovery Channel fame) proven it, several studies show that the driving ability of those on a cell phone is equal to someone who's inebriated. Other safety studies, especially those at University of Illinois conducted by Dan Simon , have shown that most people can't detect dangerous changes in their surroundings. (Check out the basketball and real-world person change events.) A couple of Northwest Airline pilots overshoot the Minneapolis airport despite lots of attempts to rouse their attention.

How do we get people to pay attention? People make mistakes a lot. In our company, we audited our production parts, just doing a visual check, and, on average, we found 10% of the parts were different. Some were even different when made by the same person. These mistakes must be from inattention--not a lack of skills or not knowing what to do, or improper tools, equipment or materials.

If the workers in our company drove like they made parts, they'd have an accident every week.

Don't think you're or your colleagues are any better. Check out typos in emails, or poor grammar usages. My guess is the rate is a lot higher than 10%.

Don't think that inspection will prevent the mistakes from being a problem. Inspection can't catch everything. (Again, check out the University of Illinois studies; most people can't see the "problems".) My estimation is that the rate of errors in books, which are vetted by professional proofreaders, have 10% errors in spelling. The worst errors in books are especially annoying when editors and proofreaders miss that a word is used incorrectly. (I have even spotted errors in character names from one page to the next.)

200% or 300% inspection is even worse. "I don't need to check very closely because Ralph will be inspecting it next, and he'll find the mistakes." "I don't need to check very closely because Susie already inspected these and she probably found all of the problems."

Pay attention, everyone! To paraphrase Smokey the Bear, "Only You Can Prevent Mistakes!"

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