It is Your Fault!

You are a front-line operator. Who gets the blame when something goes wrong? Far too often, you do – the operator. You are doing the work. Of course, it is your fault! Have you heard these reasons for why it is the operator’s fault?

  • He didn’t follow our job work instructions. These are written out and the operator has been trained.
  • He wasn’t paying close enough attention.
  • The equipment is down because the operator didn’t run it correctly.
  • She didn’t take time to re-check her work.
  • He simply doesn’t care.

Blaming the operator each time is simply poor leadership. But it is the easiest thing to do. Finding the root cause takes work.

Everyone makes mistakes. Read out loud the words in the triangle below.

bird in the bush quote

What did you read? Most likely you read the following: A bird in the bush. Is that what you did? If so, you made a mistake. Can’t you read? Didn’t you realize that something is repeated? Yes, “the” is repeated twice. This figure is from is from the website Mighty Optical Illusions.

Blaming some for a mistake goes back to variation – common and special causes of variation. Our previous blog, A True Story About Variation, introduced the topic of blaming the operators.

The challenge is to determine if a mistake is due to common or special causes. The most effective way to separate the two is using a control chart. But here is a simple rule of thumb to determine if an operator’s mistake is due to common or special causes:

If more than one or two people are making the same mistake, the odds are that it is a process problem caused by common causes of variation – not a people (special cause) problem.

Why do errors occur? After all, we don’t intentionally mean to create an error. There are many, many reasons why errors occur. This is why that most errors are due to common causes. What are some of these common causes of variation?

  • Too much work
  • Bonus/incentives
  • Inexperience
  • Too little work
  • Work environment
  • Lack of breaks
  • Too much overtime
  • Poor supervision
  • Motivation
  • Lack of training
  • Repetitive work
  • Lack of teamwork
  • Poor training
  • Shift work
  • Poor communication
  • Time pressures
  • 12 hour shifts
  • Poor instructions

Everyone – you and me included – make mistakes. The challenge for leadership is to understand why the mistake was made and use their influence to help a team work on preventing the mistake in the future. It is not to blame the operator. Remember, 94% of the problems we face are due to common causes of variation.

Please see our SPC Knowledge Base article, It’s the Operator’s Fault, for more information.

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