Mistakes That Matter

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometime it’s okay to make a mistake: perhaps you made an educated guess or assumed risk and the results were not as expected. These “mistakes” are good ones, particularly if the rationale and results are documented and shared so that others can learn. These mistakes are signs that you’re thinking, pushing limits, and are open to new ideas.

And then there are the other mistakes. For these mistakes, documentation does not serve a learning purpose; it serves a “permanent record” kind of purpose. You don’t want to make these mistakes. If you screw up, and you will because, hey, you’re human, here’s how to tell if you make a Mistake That Matters:

1. if you cause your boss to do more work: e.g. if I have to now meet with HR, deal with a grievance, issue a campus-wide apology, renegotiate a contract, etc. then this is Bad.

2. if you cause your organization to lose cash: e.g. you didn’t get multiple quotes for big items, you don’t know the fair costs of goods or services, etc. Most mistakes cost something but can also provide benefits, and the costs can be hidden IF THEY’RE NOT CASH. But if your mistake results in us having to pay someone for something, then this is BAD.

Otherwise, it’s not such a big deal. Party on.

p.s. if you do make a Mistake That Matters, then the best way to save your ass is to own up to it immediately, apologize profusely, and state that that particular mistake will Never Happen Again. This makes people feel better because you’ve accepted responsibility and it rationalizes the hierachy (which is bogus but at times like this, you just want to get people off your back as quickly as possible).

4 Responses to “Mistakes That Matter”

  1. rufusb said:

    Apr 03, 09 at 9:41 am

    Mistake. I have heard of this term. I’ll have to look that up…

  2. admin said:

    Apr 03, 09 at 4:29 pm


  3. Bendy said:

    Apr 06, 09 at 9:20 am

    was this prompted by 1 or 2 or 1 and 2 together?

  4. admin said:

    Apr 06, 09 at 4:30 pm

    so far prompted just by (1)

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