Taking business mishaps on the chin

Many organisations I talk to remain unconvinced about the importance of investigating anything non-safety related or what they see as the small stuff. Instead, they view the occasional mishap as an inconvenient yet inevitable part of working life.

This was typified by a recent telephone call with a friend of mine who works as a logistics manager for a large national stationery distributer. The conversation went roughly as follows:

Me: So let’s say you’re shipping pallets of paper to a company, how much might they be worth?

Her: Hmmm, depends on the paper…. seven, maybe eight hundred pounds each.

Me: And I’m guessing occasionally one might go missing?

Her: (Laughs) More often than you’d imagine.

Me: And do you investigate this?

Her: Yeah someone does.

Me: How?

Her: Well…. We check the warehouse to make sure it’s not hiding, then someone rings the haulier to see if they know where it is.

Me: …..

Her: And then we ship a replacement to the customer.

Me: So what’s the outcome? You can’t find it so you send another?

Her: Yeah that’s it really. We take it on the chin. Bad luck. It happens.

Let me ask you this: if a worker was hurt or killed in your workplace, can you imagine saying “Ah well. That was unlucky, we’ll just take this one the chin and move on”?

Of course you wouldn’t! So why do we tolerate unexplained incidents in other areas of business?

Incident investigation does not have to be complex, but it is a skill that has to be learned and practiced. And it is not just for safety. We should never take business failures on the chin and put them down to bad luck. Once the process of incident investigation has been learned, it can be implemented throughout your organisational activities with the potential to reap truly satisfying results.

In today’s increasingly challenging business environments, simple and structured investigation analysis could be the key to giving your organisation a significant competitive edge.