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Doing things right from the onset

During a non-related meeting with a colleague the discussion happened to drift to brief dialog on doing things right the first time. And she’s absolutely right in a sense that we tend to ignore all too often the impact of not doing things right from the onset and tend to overlook the impact on both cost and people when yet again moving in an iterative debate or action.

Just think about the following simple examples of waste we encounter every day:

  • Meeting minutes are sent around 3 or 4 times because everybody needs to make a comment instead of closing the meeting by running through the actions and notes and just sending them once
  • A claim or change request to a customer cannot be triggered because we failed to create timely an exception report documenting the deviation
  • Meetings are becoming debate clubs because people tend to come less prepared or really want to have the last word or try to impose an opinion
  • Time registration is not done on time or incomplete causing additional effort and cost
  • Processes get bypassed of creatively used to serve an interest not in line with the company interest

I guess we can all find dozens of examples and addressing these starts with ourselves. Finger pointing is easy for the flawless people that practice that particular art form. It’s tightly related to the ‘close enough’-attitude we all see happening around. Would you accept your banker transferring funds to an account that is close enough to your account because it looks a bit like your number? Would you accept your doctor to give you medicine that is close enough to what you actually need because it’s also a white capsule?

I believe that’s not the case so then why should we accept this in our professional life. One cannot underestimate the impact such an attitude on your colleagues and the results of a company. Close enough customer requirements or sales strategies do not result in winning the business and correcting this is causing nothing else than overhead and frustration. Close enough costings, delivery tasks or project management activities do not result in a customer satisfaction befitting a professional company.

The most efficient method for cutting waste (and become more efficient) is actually to attack anything and everything that is not done right the first time. This concept, known as first time right, involves making sure that all activities are carried out in the right manner the first time and every time and is something we should consider embracing more explicitly.

The irony is that some people fail at doing things right the first time because they actually are worrying about doing things right the first time. They should in any case have our respect for trying.

It’s a correct attitude, a minimal process adherence and sufficient knowledge and skills that will result in the desired quality and all the rest may seem interesting but is irrelevant in the overall context. It means getting rid of ‘double standards’ by making a personal commitment to not accept errors or deviations anymore and meet the expectations of your company towards you as an individual and as a team.

Keep this in mind: you only get one chance to do things right the first time.


Frederik De Breuck is better known as Stonyarc (GamerTag). Next to writing and maintaining his personal blog he is the owner of and . He's also Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) since 2010 and works as Presales Director for Fujitsu Belgium.

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