We’ve all had it happen to us. We get an email sent to a distribution list or group that informs us of a document that’s included in the email. It gives details about the attachment. Then comes the first email copying everyone informing the sender that he forgot to include the attachment. Not realizing that someone else already noticed the error, several others do the same. Then comes the email sent again with the original attachment. 

Another example is the notice that tells everyone that the best availability for the upcoming meeting is on Tuesday, July 10th. The only problem is July 10th is a Thursday. So, ensues a volley of emails trying to figure out if the meeting is on Tuesday, July 8th or Thursday, July 10th or some other day. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while. But, do you know anyone who this happens to often? So often that you almost expect it?

Do it right the first time

Do it Right the First Time is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that we measured when I worked for GE Healthcare. Then it was mostly used around the delivery of a product or services. As a team, we talked often about the KPI but in a different context. We talked about our reputation or our brand. Did any of us want our brand to be known as the person who always had errors in their emails and the work that we delivered?

Back then it was more than forgetting an attachment. We didn’t have the great spell-checking features we have today. I knew a few folks that had the reputation of poorly written emails with spelling errors, missed words, and forgotten attachments. The interesting thing was their work output tended to follow the same trend. 

What does “do it right the first time” really mean?

One definition from Investopedia.com defines it this way:

“Do it Right the First Time (DRIFT) is a theory from managerial accounting that relates to just-in-time(JIT) inventory where a company only receives goods as they are needed to cut down on inventory costs and production management. The idea behind DRIFT is that management wants all of the processes that make up the JIT philosophy to be done correctly and efficiently, so there are no delays in the production process.”

Today I’m focusing more on what “do it right the first time” means to us more personally. My definition of DRIFT is simpler. It means delivering a product or solution that works or is delivered the way it was intended. Going back to our email example say you are sending an email that is meant to have an attachment and yet you failed to include it. This is not getting it right the first time.

Why it matters

The real question is, “why should we care about doing it right the first time?” I’ve already alluded to this in that it really becomes your brand or reputation. Is that what you want?

There is a second reason as well—it’s usually faster and easier to do it right the first time. Going back to the email example, you send an email without an attachment. You assume you are done with the task and move on. The next time you check your email you see all the traffic about missing the attachment. You have to go back to the original email and respond to all, apologizing, and find the appropriate attachment. You also end up responding specifically to a few of the emails and having to clear your inbox of all the emails about the mistake.

The extra time spent for everyone having to read the email without the attachment, respond, and then finally read the email with the attachment adds up quickly. Worse yet, if the original email was time sensitive and the error was not discovered until much later, you’ve got bigger issues. Thirty seconds or less of adding a review to your email process would have eliminated the simple error. 

What does it take to “do it right the first time”?

DRIFT usually requires a strong process. Once again, going back to the email example. If responding to emails does not include a second check, you most likely will end up with lower quality work. Today with spell checker we usually don’t have to worry about misspelled words. But, what about the wrong word used but spelled correctly? In my emails, this usually takes the form of “and” instead of “an” or “do instead of “at”. Don’t ask me why on the second one, something in my brain interchanges the two words. This often gets flagged by a grammar checker but only if you pay attention to it. 

Gmail has some spiffy Artificial Intelligence today that asks you if you meant to include an attachment when you write an email that looks like it’s supposed to have one. Unfortunately, this is not 100% either. I once had a misspelled word get auto-corrected to something I would have been very embarrassed about if it went out. My process always includes a re-read of my email before I send it out, saving me from situations like that. For really important emails, or emails going to a large audience, I often check them 3-5 times before finally hitting send. 

“Do it right the first time” requires a strong process. In the simple case of email, a strong process requires double or triple checking as a habit. If you’re interested in more information on how to build better habits contact SPEARity, a local Milwaukee leadership coaching firm that specializes in business coaching, executive coaching, and leadership development training.


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