Morphing Mistakes into Motion

Mistakes Will Be Made

It is inevitable you will make a mistake. And another, and another. The consequences will range from miniscule to nuclear meltdown. You can anticipate where mistakes may happen, account for them in a timeline, but the specifics such as where, when, and how are shrouded in mystery. Agonizing over a situation that is a guaranteed unknown leads to anxiety – an anticipatory emotion with it’s own dangerous side effects. The positive? The sooner we accept mistakes will happen, the sooner we can prepare for what comes next. How to react.

Putting It Into Motion

When it becomes a reality, there are specific steps you can make to rectify.

  1. Mobilize
  2. Manage
  3. Make Amends
  4. Move On

In order to walk through these, let’s apply a real-life scenario that happened to me:

I was handling a project that required adjusting go-live dates in the system that was based on variable labor levels during the peak of the COVID pandemic. At one point, I forgot to push out a date which affected multiple business locations, generated hundreds of unnecessary orders and took hours to reverse. It took three days to discover the mistake and what was worse is that I wasn’t even the one to find it.


This is the root cause phase and our first call to action. Since the mistake is now reality, we can backtrack the potential steps that lead to the mistake. For example, I missed pushing out a go-live date in the system. How? Simply put, I forgot. Digging deeper, I prided myself on not having to write miscellaneous tasks down.


Manage the situation. We know how, now we need to repair. There’s going to be a short term solution, a band-aid, that can resolve a situation quickly. They’re necessary but ugly to look at. What’s more crucial is the permanent solution preventing a repeat. Band-aids are meant to be ripped off when wounds are healed. In this case, the band-aid was a few hundred orders manually cancelled…one by one.

At the time, there was nothing systemically we could do to completely prevent. It was a mental mistake. Other times, different checks can be inserted into a process to streamline. Don’t be afraid either to completely rebuild if a process is convoluted. Simplicity is repeatable.

My permanent solution was simple – for a simple mental oversight – I wrote it down! Put in my calendar. Additionally I created a tracker of daily orders for if it ever happened again, it would not take three days to find and I’d be the first.

Make Amends

This is the last action and for good reason. We don’t have time beforehand to type or craft a formal amend. We’ve been getting s*** done. I use the word amend over an apology as amends means to improve upon, to better. Mistakes will happen, grow from it. Making amends lays everything out and communicated to all parties affected with the apology at the end.

Here’s what happened. Here’s why. This is what’s been done to temporarily fix it. This is what’s been put in place for future prevention. Apology.”

There’s a lot packed in there. Initiative to manage the situation. Opportunity to better yourself or the process. Humility and maturity to accept your part of the mistake.

Move On

The most important step for your emotional health but perhaps the hardest. With nothing physically left to do, we’re left emotionally feeling guilty or ashamed. We believe others are judging us for our mistakes and may consider us incompetent. None of it’s true. No one is ruminating except you. Everyone else has moved on. Self-worthiness is so important here. Your mistakes don’t measure your worth, how you managed it does.

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