Monday, April 11, 2011

Allowing Mistakes

One of the tropes of management is this:

"Allow people the freedom to make mistakes."

The idea is that by making it okay to make mistakes, then people will stretch farther and the successes will be larger. Mistakes drive innovation. So we should make sure that everyone who works for us knows that mistakes are acceptable.

Here's the thing: we're all human, so mistakes are inevitable. Every single one of us is going to mess up sometime (let's not discuss the time I miscounted how much test data I had put into a system, overfilled it, and didn't catch it until I came back from vacation to spend days recovering and restarting the test instead of presenting results).

So, yes, mistakes will happen, and that's okay. There's a limit, though. "Oops, that was a mistake" is not an excuse for presenting bad results or becoming that guy who breaks the build at least once a day.

One mistake is a simple mistake. Three mistakes is a bad day. Constant mistakes.... that's just plain sloppy.

When you make a mistake, take it as just what it is: a mistake. Also take it as an opportunity to check your work a little more closely before you do it. Be the guy who makes mistakes. Don't be the sloppy guy.


  1. three mistakes is a bad day????

  2. Yeah, three mistakes is a bad day. Particularly when a mistake costs you a 3 hour test!

  3. I totally agree.
    And I have an adition: Make sure, the same mistake does not happen twice!
    Like in sw development: If you discover a bug, write a test that covers that bug, to ensure the bug never occurs again.

  4. So you mean big mistakes. I think small mistakes such as typos or a slip of the tongue are acceptable. Particularly when you are learning new things, to do it better, you might need to more than three mistakes.