Fixing After the Mistake
You know what went wrong, how it happened, and why. That forms the foundation for taking action. There are two parts to taking care of the mistake: cleaning up the aftermath and finding a way, if possible, to keep it from happening again.
You're facing a situation in which something went wrong. The team needs to find a way to correct the results. Start by isolating the problem's impact from the problem itself so you can treat the result as an entity in its own right. Find a way to control and heal the symptoms. You might find that there is little or nothing you can do. For example, there might now be a delay in reaching an objective with no way to speed the process to meet an original deadline. Customers might cancel orders because they aren't willing to wait longer. But it's imperative that you do what you can to deal with the issue.
A corrective strategy will have a few parts:
Identify what or whom your team has affected.
Acknowledge the problem to the injured parties.
Get those parties to help formulate a working remedy.
Implement the remedy.
Leaders and organizations most often go wrong in the second and third steps. They pretend that nothing out of the ordinary happened, either to save face or out of real concern about potential legal liability. They compound the problem by deciding on a remedy without checking to ensure it will actually help the affected people or groups. In fact, if you're so out of touch with your customers that this could easily happen — and it is far easier than you might think — you've got a good lead on one source of the problem.
Corrective strategy is a way to take care of the immediate damage, but you don't want the problem to happen again. That's why you need an alternative approach for the future. You won't change what just happened, but with some hard work and good luck, you might be able to develop a permanent solution so that the problem cannot recur.
In short, it's time to return to the drawing board. If the mistake was one of those rare occurrences that was nothing but the single error of an individual, there is little you can do. It's far more likely, however, that the mistake was the result of a systemic miscalculation. Somewhere, someone made a wrong choice in setting up a process, a strategy for achieving a goal, or some other long-lasting undertaking.
What you do is start from the beginning. Treat the process or strategy as something new, using all your research and adding everything you've learned from dealing with the mistake. Given that you were able to create the previous version, you should be able to build a new one and design protection into it. The reason you act as though you're completely starting over is to avoid the temptation of a bandage solution, where you do something to patch up the issue. If you look over the whole process, you might find that the fix must extend to other parts. Ignore that, and chances are you'll make things more complicated and error-prone than they need to be.
Correction in Process
Next to stopping a problem before it happens, this is the best way to deal with a mistake. You have to catch the mistake early enough so that results aren't set in stone. Then you apply the same analytic deconstruction and rebuilding that you would use for fixing a mistake after the fact.
Complications set in when you remember that you're trying to affect a work in progress. Proceed with caution, and avoid radical corrections. You don't want to push something to the point of introducing new errors while you're trying to fix the original one.