Three tips on how to fix a mistake

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‘No matter how many systems are put in place, or people employed to avoid these things, at least one little error will have slipped through. And to be honest, we don’t really mind…Blunders are part of trying something new, so we applaud them.’

Smith Journal, Issue 1

I recently made a big mistake on one of my projects. It was an oversight where I failed to thoroughly check some assets. The client picked it up the day before going live and a piecemeal solution was executed. It wasn’t the end of the world but I felt terrible. How had I made such a rookie mistake?

Although the client was initially annoyed, in time, she came to terms with the situation and was content with the relatively simple (and cheap) solution. While the whole ordeal is still fresh I thought I might share my three top ingredients for how to fix a mistake:

1. Don’t Panic

Good Producers never panic. Take some time (but not too long) to understand the ramifications of the problem. Once you’ve assessed the situation start making some proactive decisions. Obviously, follow any established escalation procedures but most humdingers don’t come with an instruction manual so use common sense and remove emotion from the decision making process.

2. Bring solutions

The best way to fix a mistake is to just fix it. Sounds silly but re-read and you will see it makes sense. The best way to solve a problem is to come up with a solution. While Smith Journal can say it likes making blunders because it is making something new, don’t expect the client to buy such an excuse. If you make a blunder, you bring a solution. Producers work in an objective, Star Wars inspired, binary world of right and wrong, online and offline, start up and crash, Mac and PC, Swans and Pies, winning and losing. We work our arses off to right any wrong (unless substandard creative is delivered and then we just say ‘it is what it is’).

3. Change

Process the issue and understand why it happened. Dispel the assumption and interrogate the bad decision. Change the way you work to ensure the same mistake is never made again. Share your learning with others so no one else makes the same mistake. This could be in the form of a team meeting, blog post, email, wiki article or just a water cooler chat.

Don’t be ashamed of telling people about your mistakes. Colleagues will have more respect for someone who admits a mistake than tries to pass the buck. Project leadership requires taking responsibility not being perfect. Be proud of lessons learned and well executed solutions because, at the end of the day, that is what producers deliver.

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