Frequently committed errors (FCE) are anomalies in a particular process that have a negative impact on the outcome. Essentially, anything that falls outside of the established, value-added activities within each process is an error. Identifying, recognizing and addressing frequently committed errors is essential to good business management.

Overview: What are frequently committed errors?

Every process in the world has various inputs in the form of raw materials, applied skill and energy investment, so frequently committed errors can take many different forms. Even though the processes themselves range from elegant simplicity to technically complex, the basic strategy behind the statistical analysis remains the same. Establishing FCEs is an early-stage strategy in a greater process improvement plan.

3 benefits of FCE

While the errors themselves are obviously a drawback, there are great potential benefits for understanding and addressing them.

1. Learn to apply data science

Both leaders and employees need real experience before the company can truly integrate data science practices into daily operations. The task of establishing, analyzing and addressing frequently committed errors is a fundamental and essential project that helps teams master the basics.

2. Set smart priorities

The main benefit of knowing your FCEs is prioritizing future control and improvement steps. The potential targets in a continuous improvement environment are virtually endless, but that can actually be a problem if you don’t know how to prioritize. Frequent errors are an obvious and effective place to find priority targets for the next improvement cycle.

3. Measure range and impact

Knowing your frequent errors allows you to also make an informed examination of the impact of those errors on other stages of the production process. This helps inform future risk assessments and crisis management programs.

Why are frequently committed errors important to understand?

Leaders need to know their frequent errors so they can fix them, but they also need to understand the principles and concepts that have applications beyond the immediate situation.

Patterns versus anomalies

You need to know the difference between a pattern and an anomaly. In other words, you need to know at what point an error is considered a “frequent” one. Messing up 1 ice cream cone out of 100 is no big deal, but messing up 1 commercial fight out of 100 is unacceptable. Context, expectations and consequences should all factor into this equation.

Handling the human element

The search for frequent errors often involves one or more people, which can create tension and friction if not handled properly. Leaders should take steps to avoid any kind of indirect blame or responsibility on people involved in the process in question. Both the problem and solution are team efforts.

Cause and effect

Cause and effect can seem clear on the surface, but roil with complexity underneath. Sometimes it’s a good idea to dig a little deeper and move a little slower if you don’t fully understand the factors and implications of a FCE.

An industry example of FCE

A fast food restaurant serves thousands of customers every single day. Due to a rising number of complaints, the owners decide to monitor reasons for failed orders throughout the day. This includes orders that were placed but not paid for as well as major customer complaints following a meal. After a few weeks of collecting data from live observation, company leaders found that more than half of failed orders involved multiple bags. Further investigation revealed that employees were frequently committing the error of placing different orders too close on the warming table, which made it easier for other workers to combine the wrong ones when delivering them to the customer. After recognizing the error, the company took steps to mitigate the problem by adding dividers to keep orders completely separate on the warmer.

3 best practices when thinking about frequently committed errors

Step carefully as you navigate the road towards fixing your frequently committed errors.

1. Be slow to point fingers

Adopting lean manufacturing or management practices can be stressful for workers initially unless leaders take the time to really encourage and onboard their team. Always be careful about pointing fingers when discussing frequent errors. Sometimes what looks like human error could actually be much more complex.

2. Don’t accept mediocrity

The principle that motivates continuous improvement is an endless drive and ambition to get better. It’s easy to make a bit of progress after discovering a few FCEs and then grinding to a halt when the going gets tough. Progress doesn’t always happen quickly, but it will happen to those who pursue excellence.

3. Look beneath the surface

Some problems are so simple you could describe them in a paragraph. Others require advanced technical knowledge, industry experience or intimate knowledge of the process itself. That’s why leaders always need to check beneath the surface before just accepting what they see on the surface.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about FCEs

How do you find your frequently committed errors?

There’s only one answer to this question: data collection. Every company that wants to truly embrace data-driven management must take steps to collect data about all of their core processes.

How should you fix FCEs?

Solutions can be simple, complex, creative or technical. It all depends on the nature of the problem and the scope of the desired solution. Sometimes all it takes is better training and job instructions to address an FCE.

How many FCEs does a process have?

Frequency is relative, so the answer depends on the process itself. It’s hard to compare different processes with each other, but companies can get decent comparisons by looking at similar actions and environments in their competitors.

Master your weaknesses

Studying your frequently committed errors is about studying your own weaknesses and learning from your failures. This is one of the true and sure stones on the pathway to success. Leaders must always be willing to looking at their faults and failings to find the best way to take the next step forward.

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