When Charlie suggested that I write an article he also said it would be a good idea to introduce myself as the newest member of the team here at ‘Bacon Towers’.
I am Stephen Hargreaves and joined Cure & Simple at the start of June; I first met Charlie back in 2007 on a freezing cold morning stood in a field as we were trying to catch a loose horse and over the intervening years it became apparent there was much in common between us. We are both country ‘lads’ with backgrounds in agriculture & animal husbandry, we are both passionate about animal welfare & food production, both ‘foodies’, with a desire to create and deliver something unique, but more than this we share the same values and a similar outlook on life.
We also have complimentary skill sets, Charlie developed a professional expertise in software development & brand building, my area of specialism was in finance and more accurately as a professional investor in small & mid-sized companies. A good platform on which to develop a team and build a business we think.
Building our business will inevitably include errors and naturally enough we only want to make each mistake once, so we need to incorporate into our process a system of both recognising & correcting each error and also of ensuring that it won’t be able to happen again or have an impact on other areas of the business.
A simple system, regardless of the type of system, is always the strongest, but as systems grow and become more sophisticated they also become inherently weaker so we need to allow for this and create ‘safeguards’ for failure, either partial or total, as any system that does not prepare for failure is effectively ensuring it – something that engineers know all too well through their study & training and something that the ‘Fathers’ of the European currency would have been well served to have heeded.
In doing this the best place to start maybe to follow Henry Ford’s maxim “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain”. Let’s not invest time assigning blame, but find out what went wrong and build a safeguard into the system to prevent others from making the same mistake.
With this in mind what can we learn from others? For if we only learn from our own mistakes we are condemning ourselves to repeat the mistakes of others; so who can we learn from? Simple logic suggests that those industries where errors are the most catastrophic are likely to have the most comprehensive error reporting and prevention systems –airlines could fit the bill perfectly here and indeed they do have a very robust system of confidential error reporting, which is well highlighted in Peter Bevelin’s book: Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger
“the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has an Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) for analysing and reporting aviation incidents. FAA utilizes NASA as a third party to receive aviation safety reports. This cooperation invites pilots to report to NASA actual or potential deficiencies involving aviation safety. That NASA is the receiver ensures confidentiality and anonymity of the reporter and all parties involved in an incident. There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 20 years of the ASRS under NASA management. Pilots who report an incident within ten days have automatic immunity from punishment.” pp163.
Anonymity in a small team is admittedly difficult to achieve. We can however, instil the culture of investigation and remedy, not blame, from the beginning through the design of our own Error log, not just for actual, but also for potential errors in order to consider break points and build in contingency plans. Doing this will allow us to create checklists and simplify procedures to make better decisions and avoid dumb mistakes.
And avoiding the dumb mistake is something we can all strive for!