Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What To Do If You Make A Big Mistake

Have you ever been in a situation that someone trusted you doing some job for him/her, then you mistakenly messed it up?!!

I hope you never find yourself in a similar situation, but if you do, here are some tips you may take. I read them since quit some time on, and I found them very helpful

If possible, come up with a plan to fix the problem
Don't just walk away and wash your hands of the situation. If you caused the problem, you are responsible for coming up with the plan to resolve it. The plan needs to address the actions that need to occur, the people who need to take them, and the amount of time you think the actions will take.

Come clean with your boss
Trying to cover things up rarely works. It's important that you be in control of the message. So as hard as it will be, you should summon up your strength, take a deep breath, and go talk to your boss.

Let the boss know about that plan
In this situation, and in fact at any other time, never to go to the boss with just a problem. Go with a solution as well. In this case, go with the plan you developed and show the boss that, to at least some degree, you're in control.

Tell the affected parties
Let those affected by your mistake know what happened, but spare the technical details for now. Instead, focus on how the situation affects them. Most important, offer any workarounds you can. Ask for their suggestions as well.

Don't blame others
You're no longer in grade school. Trying to blame other people makes you look unprofessional, diminishing the opinion that others have of you. Conversely taking responsibility and admitting your mistake can win you respect.

Stop looking back
Learning from the past can help prevent repeat mistakes. However, don't confuse learning from the past with dwelling on the past. The latter involves endless self-recrimination and often self-pity, neither of which helps resolve the situation. If you find yourself dwelling on the mistake in this manner, stop it right now and read the next tip.

Prepare and issue a "lessons learned" document
"Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Documenting the mistake, and the steps taken to resolve it, are key in this regard. In doing so, be sure to cover the conditions that led to the mistake, the steps taken to correct it, and the measures taken to prevent its recurrence.

Apologize to those affected
Mistakes often cost others in lost time and productivity and hence frustrate them. Consequently, even if you solve the problem, the people who were affected by it might still be upset if you never acknowledge that frustration. Taking a second to apologize will go a long way toward restoring you to good graces. By doing so, you show you appreciate what they had to go through.

Put the best face possible on what happened
Everyone focuses on the negative effects of a problem. However, can you find any good things, no matter how small, that resulted from this problem? One of the most useful concepts I've learned is that of "reframing" the situation, that is, to change the way a person looks at it.

In this case, reframing the problem might take the following form:
• Yes, a problem occurred.
• Yes, the system was unavailable.

BUT the good news is:
• It happened during a slow time.
• It identified issues we need to address elsewhere in other systems.

Of course, in offering these arguments, it's helpful if you can do so with a straight face.

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