By David Henzel, co-founder of TaskDrive – we support sales and marketing teams with personalized lead research and outbound campaigns.
In my experience, one of the best ways for an operation to perpetually perform at its peak is to continuously and systematically seek out and tweak any areas that can be optimized. For many businesses, actively looking out for problems is not necessarily a priority, but making trouble-shooting a part of everyday operations is an easy and simple way to understand where there is room for improvement in your organization.
Whether you call it Kaizen—a system for continuous improvement—or simply good sense, problem-solving is an important part of improving any operation. This is why in all of my businesses, we continuously apply an “error log” system, which makes seeking solutions an expected and welcomed part of operations. With the error log, finding solutions to areas that may be lacking becomes part of daily operations, which is exactly what allows for a business to become a self-healing machine.
What is an error log?
An error log is simply a document where you list every mess-up that transpires and every complaint that is filed in the organization. In short, the error log includes identifying the problem, the reason it may have occurred and how it can be prevented in the future. Your senior leadership can open up the error log during high-level meetings to gain a clearer understanding of relevant problems and discuss the best ways to overcome them. A properly utilized error log can help people feel more willing to admit to problems because they see how identifying errors is helping everyone improve.
What are the steps to filling out an error log?
1. Identify yourself. The first step in the error log is for the person entering the data to identify themselves. They should explain who they are and their connection to the incident.
2. Explain what happened. The author of the entry should write, in detail, the timing of the event and a description of what transpired and why. They should also provide an update on the current status of the situation.
3. Who was affected? The error log entry should include which customers, staff members and/or standard operating procedures (SOPs) were affected when the situation occurred. It may also be helpful to mention any better options that could have been chosen by those involved (if applicable).
4. How can you recoup? This section is about taking accountability and owning up to the error. It can include options for how to apologize and redeem yourself as well as ways to utilize what happened as a means to forge stronger connections with clients or others.
5. How can this be prevented? In addition to identifying what went wrong, one of the most important sections of the error log is establishing how you are going to make sure the situation does not repeat itself. The question that needs to be answered in this section is, “Which SOP should change so that this problem never happens again?”
6. What is the lesson? Last, but certainly not least, is this final section, which is used to determine what can be learned from the situation. This is where you consider why the error might have happened—in other words, the greater reasons behind it—and make the commitment to have better practices so as to avoid similar situations in the future.
Welcome problem-solving as an opportunity for growth.
The error log inherently allows for problem-solving by making the formula for improvement clearly evident. Problem-solving is something I believe should be a regular part of everything we do—professionally, personally and otherwise. Errors should be welcomed, expected and accepted as an opportunity for growth and continual improvement. As a result, SOPs can be tweaked to mitigate errors, better products can be produced for clients and a potentially negative situation can result in reconnecting with customers and identifying even better ways to serve them. This is how the error log system makes a business not only a self-healing machine but also one that is constantly growing stronger after each wound is repaired.
Having an error log can also be immensely impactful in establishing a company culture based on transparency and accountability. When employees understand that it is okay to mess up and make mistakes because they can lead to benefits for the company’s SOPs, they’ll be less likely to shy away from admitting and owning up to what could have potentially been done better. I tell my staff that they will never get in trouble for being transparent and accountable; we will only have an issue if they don’t own up and add problems to the error log. This helps establish a company culture where it’s okay to mess up and make mistakes because it’s understood that errors are just a part of the process.
The error log system can actually be applied to every area of life. While we all welcome improvement in our businesses, the same attitude of improvement can benefit our personal and social lives. Having a mindset that welcomes problem-solving as an opportunity for growth has enabled me to reach peak performance in all of my roles—as a boss, a spouse and a father—and to personally have the right mindset and healthy habits. Troubleshooting your daily activities and responsibilities in every area of life can be instrumental in always staying on your A game.