A couple of weeks ago I sent out an email to several thousand (all right, let’s be honest, well over 100k) people reminding them of a webinar LEI was doing in a few days. After following the standard work, which includes two proof readers and system tests, I clicked send. Even after years of doing large mailings like this I still get nervous every time.
This time the computer system malfunctioned causing everyone’s first name to be replaced with [FNAME]. I wasn’t aware of the error until about 10 minutes after I sent it, when I started receiving replies from the recipients pointing out the error (500+ responses). Some were polite, some weren’t. This didn’t bother me. What did bother me is that there was an error in the email, the email had my name on it, and it was not correct.
Lean thinking tells me to swarm the problem: identify it, adjust the process, test the new process to ensure the error does not repeat, and more important than anything, learn from the error. The next step was letting our members know that the problem had been handled and will not occur again.
For the most part, this was remarkably well-received. Many folks sent some great words of encouragement, others again weren’t so polite.
I’ve captured a few of the replies/snippets of the replies below. Thank you to all that wrote me back:
Methinks your kicking yourself is muda. Funny how we do things that we think will make us feel better, but really is a waste?
You should be excited by the visibility of the problem and the opportunity to improve!
It's also comforting to see LEI walking the talk on improving the process. One point though: as a psychologist supporting primarily behavioral and cultural changes in mindsets, I feel you are playing it very hard on yourself! I believe in working through mistakes in a development vs redressing perspective. Seems to me you're learning from that mistake and that's exactly what we are looking for. Anyone being hard on you for making it didn't quite get what we expect of a LEAN leader…
Forgive yourself. We are human after all and lean is a journey to perfection - one with a never-ending road.
I guess making mistakes is also very much a part of learning… so please don't take this so hard on yourself.
Mistakes to inventions:
- The New World (North America)
- The Phone
- The Microwave
- Corn Flakes
Rejoice we are human, look it up to find more. Stop kicking yourself.
Now, have I begun to be afraid of mistakes? No. Will this still haunt me? Perhaps. The reason this bothered me so much was that I genuinely care about our community and I didn’t want anyone to feel like an "FNAME" (just another name in a database). I have the good fortune to have a job where I get to make things better for people and help companies thrive. I don’t want anyone to think of me or LEI as bumbling fools.
So thank you for your kind and no-so-kind words. They are all greatly appreciated. I will keep the mistakes coming as long as the learning follows, and here at LEI, we're swarming the email problem.
How do you treat your mistakes and the mistakes of your team?