Defects, Mistakes and Errors

At the Institute for Healthcare Improvement conference in Orlando last December, one of the presentations covered the application of the Toyota Production System (TPS) to a hospital. The presenter opened by saying that healthcare, in general, was a "poor quality product that cost too much for the value delivered." I was immediately struck by the guts it took to make that statement. The presenter went on to repeat that thought many times throughout the presentation. I doubt that many people caught it.

The reason for his comments? The 1999 study that found that as many as 100,000 people a year die due to preventable medical mistakes in American hospitals.

One of the biggest challenges to Lean Six Sigma is not the use of the methods or tools, but creating a mindset that loves to find and fix defects and delays. Not everyone thinks of these issues under the banner that I call defects and delays. So I got into the Synonym Finder to look for other words that mean the same thing. It's amazing how many words exist in the English language to describe mistakes and errors. Here are just a few:

blemish fallacy misprint
blooper false step misstep
blot stain fault mistake
blotch faulty muff
blunder flaw off the beam
bobble flub omission
boner foul-up oversight
boo-boo fumble rough spots
botch goof scare deformity
breach human error scratch
bugs illogical screw-up
bungle imperfection shortage
clinker imprecise shortcoming
clunker inaccuracy slip-up
cockeyed inadequacy snafu
crack incomplete snags
defect incorrect spot
deficiency inexact tear
drawback kinks trip
error leak unsound
failing louse-up weak point
failure miscue weakness

If you continue and look at words that describe how people make these mistakes, you'll find another group of words dedicated to describing the activities that lead to poor quality products and services.

misapply misdoing mismanage
misapprehend misestimation mismatch
miscalculation misguided misplace
misconceive mishap misreading
misconception misidentification misreckon
misconstruction misinterpretation misspend
misconstrue misjudgment misstep
miscount mislay mistaken
misdirected mislead misunderstanding

Here's my point: 
Until you're willing to stop congratulating yourself for what's working and start looking at the misses, mistakes, errors, omissions, defects and delay that are irritating customers, demotivating employees, and devouring your profit margins, all of the Lean Six Sigma methods and tools will not help you.

Once you view every mistake as an opportunity to mistake-proof and improve the delivery of your product or service, you'll get hooked on Lean Six Sigma. Until then, the methods and tools will just be another burden in an already crisis-managed world.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537,"

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