You’ve made a serious mistake, a bad decision, a monumental miscalculation, an unwise work assignment. It is tough to admit, but the mistake was yours. You try to console yourself that this is part of being an employee, that an employee who doesn’t make mistakes probably isn’t doing anything; one has to learn from experience. All of these considerations are true. But you don’t really learn much from experience unless you make the effort to analyze what happened—painful as that analysis is.
Know what your learning goal is
Ideally, that goal should be twofold: to avoid repeating the mistake and to improve your procedures for next time. Whatever your objective, learning is enhanced if, as a result of your analysis, you recognize what you want to happen in the future.
Concentrate on alternatives rather than on causes of the mistakes
Some people start out by looking for the causes of the mistake. But once they’ve identified them, they end their analysis. Or they find ways to rationalize the causes as having been beyond their control. It’s far better to concentrate on such questions as, “what kind of procedure or behavior would have been preferable?” or “what would work better under similar circumstances?”
Develop specific corrective or control procedures
If your mistake was the result of carelessness, you may say, “Okay, I’ll just have to be more careful next time.” That’s not enough. What specific safeguards can you build into the procedure to avoid carelessness or defective judgment?
Test the alternatives to avoid repetition of the error
Is it possible to test your alternative with a dry run? If other people are involved, get their opinions, or have them test it for you. It’s Okay to make mistakes unless its analyzed and found a way to avoid it in the future.