If people are getting something done – mistakes are going to happen. The question becomes: What to do when a mistake’s been made? Since the 1940s, one of the most important assets on the farm has been the tractor PTO. The power and versatility it brought revolutionized productivity on the farm. Unfortunately, it also became a significant source of injury and death on the farm.
Accidents – like many mistakes – are often the result of distraction or carelessness. And when someone makes a mistake, what’s the easiest thing to do? The blame game. They’re so thoughtless! Does he even care? She is obviously just irresponsible.
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When we play the blame game, our energy goes into the past, into judging, classifying and degrading the person who made the mistake. Because we want to know reasons for things, once we decide the person is absent-minded, we feel better because now we have a reason. But that doesn’t change the future.
It’s better to evaluate what changes we can make to the processes or the environment people are working in so we can reduce mistakes. Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book “Switch” recommend shaping the path to create change. Change the environment to make the right behaviors easier and the wrong behaviors harder. So when we think about PTO mistakes for the past 70 years, our solution could have been weekly training on PTO safety, hiring only extra safe employees, firing anyone who breaks the farm’s safety rules and on and on. Or we can think about how we can change the processes or the environment, avoiding a lot of frustration, injury and cost.
We all know what dramatically reduced PTO injury and death – PTO guards. This change was made not to the people, but to the environment. Is being informed about risks important? Yes. Is keeping loose clothing away important? Yes. But shaping the path made the difference.
So, when the hopper on the grain trailer is left open – do you put energy into blame or do you evaluate ways to make it harder to accidentally leave open next time?
- Think through the mistakes that have occurred this year and identify the ones that happen most often.
- List 10 changes in the process or environment that could have helped to avoid the error. This might be easier if you have others from the farm to brainstorm with you.
- Identify one or two of the best and simplest solutions.
- Implement change. Monitor for results. Adjust if needed.