Anyone who knows me well (and many that don’t – sorry!) will most likely have found themselves on the receiving end of a passionate lecture about the differences between corrective and preventive action.
All too often, this is triggered when someone asks me (or I’m required to fill in a form) what preventive action will be taken to address a non-conformity that has been raised.
Corrective action is taken to prevent recurrence. To stop it happening again, either in this example, or elsewhere. It is learning from the experience of something going wrong.
Preventive action is taken to prevent occurrence. To stop it happening before it happens. In the language of our businesses, it is risk mitigation.
Learning from experience is one of those challenging processes that everyone wants to do and understands the value of, but is incredibly difficult to implement effectively, even in relatively small or simple organisations.
It seems obvious, we had a non-optimal outcome, so next time, we’ll do it differently. Next time comes along, often elsewhere in the business and we do the same thing, expecting a different outcome. Un-surprisingly, we get the same, non-optimal result, and difficult questions start to be asked.
So why is this so difficult?
It strikes me that to understand the difficulty of organisational learning, we should consider the human psychology and the way a child learns by doing. By touching fire, a child learns that it is hot and it h...