'Prevention not correction' the key to zero error

10 Apr 21

It is not always possible to immediately understand the full consequences of a sudden change, and this can be compounded by the decisions we make in response to that change. To understand more, Padraig McEntee, Group Quality Manager at Joseph Gallagher, attended a GIRI discussion forum asking the question: “How do we make decisions and how does this lead to error?”

There are essentially five different ways decisions are made:

Decide and inform decisions are best when an urgent decision is required, or the decision is one you have the knowledge and qualifications to make.

Consult and decide decisions are made when you don’t have the necessary knowledge and need to seek expert help.

Decide by consensus are decisions that are likely to affect several parties and where it is worth getting their buy-in, but it won’t have a severe impact if everyone doesn’t agree.

A delegated decision means responsibility can be given to others if they have the ability and knowledge to make it. This often saves the manager time if simple decisions can be made by trusted team members.

A true consensus is a decision that affects several aspects of the project, for example, a change that would affect structural requirements and requires agreement from all parties.

Cliff Smith BSc CEng FICE, Executive Director at GIRI, said at the forum: “Decision making is a complex area, and we are making decisions all the time about everything we do. Understanding the scope of these five decision-making levels and their implications can help us make better decisions in the future.”

In a real-world example, an operative at the concrete pump decides the mix doesn’t look right and adds more water. However, he doesn’t have the correct knowledge, didn’t ask a supervisor, and the strength of the concrete has now been changed, which could impact the project in several negative ways:

  • Re-work required
  • Financial impact of making it right
  • Safety implications if the structure is weaker than required
  • Safety implication of making it right
  • Loss of trust from the client
  • More time required to complete the programme

The operative made a decision at the wrong level. They should have consulted a supervisor or a colleague with the right expertise.

In their job roles, people may find they consistently make decisions at a certain level. A supervisor may make most decisions on their own. Those who usually work as part of a group and always go with the consensus may get stuck when it comes to making decisions on their own. As part of exploring how we can make better decisions, we must consider when we might need to jump up and down the decision-making levels.

At Joseph Gallagher we need to adopt the approach of STOP. THINK. REPLAN. START AGAIN.

Errors are nearly always the consequence of deviating from the plan or a failure to comply with the planned process. For this reason, we should follow planned processes wherever possible. If you think of a better way to do something, beware. You may not know all the potential implications. Check your decision before you revise the process.

We often feel we don’t have time to get it right, but we can always find time to put it right. Therefore, it is crucial for Joseph Gallagher to ensure that our people and our supply chain understand that reducing error will improve quality, safety, and productivity. This is why we are embedding a ‘right first time’ culture at every level of the business and creating an environment where everybody knows why our Prevention Not Correction initiative is critical to our business.

Watch a recording of GIRI's decision-making discussion forum.

The full version of this article appears in Joseph Gallagher's company magazine.

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