Dealing with mistakes
FANUC Robotics has replaced “Do it right the first time” with a new unofficial motto: “If you make a mistake, let’s not repeat it.”
Schneider says a company that values innovation needs employees who are passionate about being creative and aggressively pursue
their ideas. Many times, that flies in the face of a company culture that values streamlined processes and efficiency.
But he says that if you don’t give employees room to learn by doing, and the residual mistakes that come with it, you’re going to choke
much of your company’s ability to grow.
“One story I tell often to employees is from a company I worked for several years back,” Schneider says. “Management would come
out and announce a decision, and the only thing we could think of that must have been behind the decision was them saying,
‘What could we announce that will upset the most employees?’”
If a mistake occurred, he says that chances are it was due to a communication breakdown at some point either someone
didn’t have the right information, or someone didn’t have enough information.
“If I make a decision and you look at it and say, ‘That was a terrible decision,’ one of two things happened,” he says. “First, it
was a bad decision, and I just didn’t understand some of the things that were going on in the company. Second, it was a good
decision, but we haven’t explained to you the background on why we made the decision.”
In addition to using company meetings and presentations as an opportunity to reinforce the company objectives, Schneider also
uses interaction opportunities as a time to solicit feedback from employees. Schneider says employee feedback is one of the best
ways to take something that went wrong and begin to form it into something that helps the company. The employees on the innovation and customer front lines are the people who know best what is working and not working.
“Every year, we have an employee survey,” Schneider says. “We ask a long series of questions. We want you to tell us what you
like, what you don’t like, what we need to work on. I love those surveys because the best way to drive innovation and improvement is to find out what’s broken.”
Schneider says mistakes and shortcomings are a fertile ground for innovation.
“I sometimes joke with (employees), ‘If we don’t have any problems, we’re in trouble,’” he says. “If you look at where innovation is coming from, time and time again, it’s coming from problems. Sometimes they’re major problems, but the bigger the problem, the bigger the innovation.”