Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
November 2012

Preventing Human Error

It’s been said many times that ‘to err is human, to forgive divine.’ Few would argue that at least the first part of that statement is absolutely true. No one is perfect. To be human is to make mistakes. Isn’t that why they put erasers on pencils? But when people make mistakes at work, those errors can hurt business. In fact, Marketwire reported in 2008 that human errors among employees cost businesses in the US and UK more than $37 billion in lost productivity. While the vast majority of mistakes at work are minor and do little real harm, some mistakes are serious enough to reduce sales, damage customer relations, hurt the bottom line or even cause sentinel events — unexpected occurrences involving death or serious physical or psychological injury.

Although it is normal for people to make mistakes, human error is never welcome at work. Companies have a vested interest in minimizing mistakes. But is that even possible? While it isn’t possible for any company to completely eliminate all slips and mishaps by staff, there are things that businesses can do to help reduce the quantity and impact of errors in daily operations. The first step is to understand the finer distinctions in the nature of human errors and what factors cause employees to make more mistakes and slips. The second step is for companies to design protocols that help to minimize errors. Make no mistake, it can be done. Here’s how. Continue reading

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Unknown Unknowns – When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Knowledge is power. That’s true in any society or culture anywhere in the world. Knowledge empowers one to navigate a complex world in the best, most efficient, most effective way with the least amount of snags and waste. This has been true since before recorded history. In fact, the 13th century Persian-Tajik poet Ibn Yamin wrote about men and knowledge:
One who knows and knows that he knows…
His horse of wisdom will reach the skies.
One who knows, but doesn’t know that he knows…
He is fast asleep, so you should wake him up!
One who doesn’t know, but knows that he doesn’t know…
His limping mule will eventually get him home.
One who doesn’t know and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know…
He will be eternally lost in his hopeless oblivion!

It is important to be ‘in the know.’ But given today’s sophisticated, complex, high tech society, having complete knowledge about everything is impossible. In an ever-increasingly intricate world, there is so much to know about so much. No one’s knowledge is ever complete. We each have many important things that we know are unknown, and many more unknowns of which there isn’t even an awareness. These are the unknown unknowns.

So how do we come to know something we need to know but don’t even know that we don’t know? It is something of a conundrum. For people in business, it is a catch-22 that can be costly.
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Ten Strategies for dealing with Prolonged Stress

During a crisis, there is usually an initial period of intense stress for any individual involved. The body and mind achieve a heightened state of alert to deal with the situation. The heart pounds, chest heaves, and muscles tighten. Senses sharpen. Time slips into slow motion. The body becomes impervious to pain. This is the normal reaction. The human body responds to a stressful situation by flooding the body with endorphins and adrenaline to deal with the situation at hand. After the initial shock wears off, the body eventually returns to a state of equilibrium. However, when there is a stressful situation that is prolonged — whether it is a life-threatening illness, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or some other ongoing event — the stress usually doesn’t end right away. In fact, the bigger the catastrophe, the more likely the stress will continue for a long time.

Indeed, after a major calamity, the body must continue to deal with the fallout of the situation. Unfortunately, long-term stress is harmful. Studies have shown that prolonged stress can be very damaging to both body and mind. But any person dealing with a major life crisis cannot just remove him/herself from the situation and stop the cause of the stress. A person dealing with a major illness or a major disaster simply cannot walk away from the cause of the stress. So what is a person to do? How does one cope with prolonged stress? Here are 24 health reasons to pay attention to ongoing stress, and 10 strategies to help decompress. Continue reading

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