Posted by: Jeff Timmins | October 18, 2011

Adding process to reduce mistakes

We are all human, we make mistakes. Some more visible than others and some are costly. If you are Victor Cruz, your understandable and typically excusable mistake cost your team the game a few weeks ago.  

Cruz, Wide Receiver for the NY Giants, is an amazing athlete and someone who’s acrobatic catches kept his team in the game. Unfortunately for the Giants, he was also the focus of two errors – the last one under 2 minutes remaining and 5 yards from the winning score – that helped secure a Seattle Seahawk victory on 10/9/2011. So much talent but also so human. That is the problem – or the joy of watching humans play the game – we all prone to mistakes.

The typical “work-around” when dealing with humans is to put enough processes in place to reduce (never eliminate) the amount of errors when dealing with critical systems. The thought of someone saying “Sorry I made a mistake, your business is down during the busiest time of the week” just doesn’t go over well. You don’t want to weigh-down humans with extra process without benefit so the question becomes “What is the risk vs. reward?”

Applying that question to an online system, there are multiple processes that could be added to reduce errors. Example is updating a Production site and when due the added processes become too much? Too few and you introduce too many errors, too many and people may stop following processes because they are a burden. A nice middle ground would be to add a few processes in each level (e.g. “upstream” in the Development stage) to apply the extra work at an even amount.

Here are some particular processes that could be added at different levels:

  • Changes in configuration files can be detailed with the update instructions
  • Automate the process to prepare the new code
  • Get updated code earlier (before the day of the update) to allow for more time for questions

A little here, a little there keeps the process moving without having to burden one particular group.



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