Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

On Being Practical and Indispensable

On Being Practical and Indispensable 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

When we were developing the Barefoot wine brand, we drove our staff crazy. Every mistake, every glitch, and every accident would result in a brainstorming session to prevent the same thing from reoccurring.

Our people would retort with, “Don’t worry about it! It’s all taken care of!” and “Look, we’ve solved the problem—can’t we just move on?!” as if the only thing we were worried about is quickly getting past the problem. But neither one of those responses does anything to prevent the same issue from happening again. The opportunity is still there for a painful and expensive issue to present itself in the future.

As leaders and business-owners, we took the philosophical position that preventing a problem was more important than brushing it under the rug, washing our hands of any wrongdoing, or coming up with a quick fix. It will come back to haunt you! And it will hurt your business if you don’t take it seriously.

So, what are your options? One option is to be proactive instead of reactive. To put it simply, start to expect a mistake, glitch, or understanding before it happens. Don’t just wait for it to show up a second time. Do what’s necessary to prevent it in advance.

For example, create a crosschecking system. Keep double-checking your work before it moves out of your hands, and make it a habit. Set up other crosschecks too, like getting another set of eyes, to prevent the mistake from happening again.

Once you establish these procedures, use them! And frequently. We would ask our people for a rewrite of a procedure. We would then require a checklist if the rewrite wasn’t enough. And if that didn’t work, we’d ask for a signoff sheet. If all of those options failed, we would finally issue a pink termination notice.

When you choose to be reactive instead of proactive, you’re telling your boss, “I really don’t care about this job; I just need the money!” Show your customers and your higher-ups that you do care. Create new procedures that slash the likelihood of a mistake’s reoccurrence. Act proactively to improve everyone’s experience—not just your own.

Because we were so nitpicky about proactive prevention, one of our people protested, “You guys are trying to make everything idiot proof!” To which we replied, “No we’re not, we are just trying to make things idiot resistant!” He then responded, “But even now, as we sit here, trying to make things idiot resistant, they’re building a better idiot!”

After all, it’s because of this better idiot that proactive people will always be essential and won’t ever run out of jobs to do. This is why companies with these kinds of people will ultimately have the best practices and the most success despite the “better idiots”!

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