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You're in! Nope. Just kidding. Quality control in administrative processes.

The Need for Poka Yokes in Office Environments

I saw a story today about an accidental email that informed nearly 29,000 applicants to a California university that they had been accepted.

The problem was that they hadn’t.

The news report focused on the impact this error had on the prospective students. While their experience was far from fun, there is another group that will feel a much greater effect for a much longer time.

The team working in the admissions office will be dealing with the fallout of this for a long, long time. They will be answering calls for days, weeks, and even months. Those calls will be emotionally charged and the person on the university’s end of the line won’t be paid nearly enough for the verbal abuse about to be unleashed on them.

And they are almost guaranteed to have to deal, in person, with a slough of people who show up on the first day of class with their acceptance email in hand.

I make mistakes every day. I hit the wrong key and watch some of my work disappear. I post something without proofreading, and my article says ‘it’ instead of ‘is’. I feel an intense compassion for the team that probably had a similar small error blow up into such a massive, and highly public problem.

This mishap highlights the need for poka yokes (mistake-proofing). The greater the risk of a problem, or the larger the potential for damage, the greater the need to build a bullet-proof process that can withstand the shortcomings of human operators.

 

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