Errors and mistakes can be costly in terms of their financial, safety, and operational implications. Consequently, it is no surprise that many organisations seek to eliminate them. However, errors are paradoxical in that they can actually be good for business. To err is human, so instead of waging war on errors, organisations should instead be looking to contain their effects and learn as much as they can to prevent them from happening again. High-reliability theory, derived from hyper-complex operations such as nuclear power, aviation, and the military, exemplifies a more functional view of error management.
In these industries, organisations not only ensure their technical systems support learning from errors, but also that their psychosocial context (or error management climate) is strong and positive. Effective error management can only occur when the psychological environment promotes helpful ways of thinking about and behaving towards errors. This white paper describes the features of an error management climate and offers practical recommendations, aimed at teams and leaders, to establish such a climate across an organisation.