Friday, July 27, 2012

Lean Quote: Mistakes are the Portals of Discovery

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." — James Joyce (1882-1914), Irish novelist and poet

One of the premises of Lean is to make it right the first time. The truth is people make mistakes.

In Lean organizations, mistakes are seen as opportunities to improve. There is no blame game if something goes wrong. People are not rewarded for how few mistakes they make, but on how well they improve the process when mistakes have occurred. Management bears the responsibility for creating effective systems that prevent mistakes.

Learning from mistakes clearly needs some analysis of the mistake itself to gain value from it. Here are a few steps to use to analyze a mistake quickly and efficiently:

  1. Accept that it happened and can’t be changed.
  2. Know there is always something to learn from it.
  3. Look to understand it and the factors that caused it.
  4. How could you have recognized the mistake earlier?
  5. How can you avoid the mistake next time?
  6. Are there similar things that might have a related mistake to avoid?
  7. What has changed now to ensure that mistake doesn’t reoccur?
  8. Who else should know about this and learn from it?
When you focus on the improvements and lessons learned from a mistake you reinforce the ability to make mistakes part of the process and something that is accepted as long as it improves things. There is no value in worrying about the mistake or dwelling on it after it is done. So, move on!

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare


  1. Great Post and true learning as well. lest,we forget - Failures are the stepping stones of Success.

  2. Great post, what drives me crazy is that management don't use all the tool available to teach. In manufacturing I don't see enough work instructions that utilized video. If your still relying on written manufacturing procedures only in 2012 wake up!

  3. I enjoyed the quote Tim

    Along a similar theme:

    Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once. ~ Brad Paisley

    You never know what you might learn