Correct mistakes with an action-oriented framework

Use Amazon's Correction of Error mechanism to improve problem solving.

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What do you do when you screw up?

It’s inevitable — we all make mistakes.

Everyone approaches it differently and has a unique natural instinct:

You may get defensive and default to assigning blame. Some lack responsibility and defer to excuses. Others are slightly more pragmatic and immediately jump to problem-solving mode.

How you approach dealing with mistakes and taking responsibility reveals your principles and integrity. It’s easy to do the right thing when things are going well, but in tough times, your true character comes out.

It’s important to optimize this process and self-correct any poor knee-jerk reactions to allow yourself to be productive in times of frustration.

Today, I’ll be sharing a heuristic from one of the most operationally-excellent companies in the world.


✏️ Correction of Error

Amazon, a behemoth and titan in the tech logistics industry, is notorious for its operating rigor, focus on detail, and faultless execution.

To remedy human error, Amazon uses a mechanism called Correction of Error.

Here’s how it works:

  • Identify the cause

  • Evaluate business impact

  • Investigate the root cause of the problem

  • Initiate action items to fix the issue

An example in action:

Scenario: A digital marketing campaign failed to launch on time.

Issue: A digital marketing campaign for company XYZ wasn’t ready to launch on the proposed date of October 31st.

Impact: Missed incremental revenue opportunity of $100k from 2k new customers. Increased customer churn by 1.5% as a result.

Root Cause: Marketing materials and assets were not completed in time. This was caused by key team members being on vacation and not coordinating beforehand. The project leader did not have oversight over the roles and responsibilities of the team, and resourcing needs. The project leader was not sufficiently plugged into the workstream, which reveals a flaw in the operating model of the team.

Action items: Assess next best alternative on a proposed date for the marketing campaign. Remodel the new digital marketing budget to determine timing windows and alternative tactics. Conduct a retrospective on the team’s working model and create a proposal for a new operating structure.


✅ Put it in practice

Next time something doesn’t go to plan, use this framework.

It’s effective because it forces you to assess the impact, exhaustively understand the problem, propose solutions, and communicate these elements in a structured, concise way.

You can apply it in business, life, relationships, and so forth. You’ll have to slightly tweak it, obviously.


Appreciation & Support

These articles take a while to put together. If you genuinely enjoyed it—or found it useful, I’d love for you to share it with a friend.

I’m also pretty active on Twitter. I post half-baked ideas, frameworks, and thoughts there. See below:


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