3 Things to Remember When You Talk to Your Teams About Errors

Nobody’s perfect. No matter how well-planned and systematic a construction project is or how skillful the workers are, some things are really out of our control and are bound to go downhill. Teams are composed of human beings who make mistakes. As a project owner or manager, you have to accept this reality.
While any error is bad, it can be magnified further when people involved in the construction work don’t realize that the error has occurred until it comes to a point when irreparable damage has been done. If it's not addressed as soon as possible, it can become the major reason for failure of a project.

Faced with these two realities – that errors may occur, and that they should be addressed immediately – the first thing to do when a team is faced with errors is to talk about it. This is, of course, easier said than done, as group discussions may lead to finger-pointing and personal judgment rather than coming up with solutions. If you lead a project team, here are some tips on how to discuss errors with your members:

1. Set the tone of the discussion. People directly involved in the incident may become defensive and will tend to want to cover their butts. Assure everyone on the team that you’re having the discussion to address the problem, and not to deal with the problem makers. As you start the discussion, the error should already have been identified and everyone made aware of it so that your team is not in an agitated and panicked mindset. During the discussions, do not linger on the negative effects of the error. Rather, focus on the root causes so that you can come up with preventive measures for the future.

2. Brainstorm solutions to the problem with your team without dismissing any ideas in the beginning. Brainstorming involves collecting the members’ ideas without filtering anything out, no matter how outrageous they may sound. Once you’ve exhausted the ideas, you can start discussing the points one by one.

3. Make a report. More than just a paper to present to the big bosses, an incident report contains the error, its root causes, the corrective actions made, and any preventive measures that you want to put in place. This allows not only your team but also the entire organization to learn from what happened.

Errors may be painful and costly, but in the end, they can be seen as opportunities for the company to improve on current practices. They also provide venues for employees to provide suggestions and give them ownership of their jobs. Mistakes, we all make 'em and we can all learn from 'em.

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