“It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not” ― Jeff Lindsay
A productivity meme is to “get it right the first time.” It’s why real productivity is more about outcomes and less about speed. However, it’s hard to be productive when the same or similar mistakes are made over and over. Does repeated incompetence frustrate you?
Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Remember the first time you rode a bike as a child. Chances are you fell off almost straight away. If you didn’t then it was only a matter of time before you did when you tried a manoeuvre that was too advanced for your skills. But over time you learnt how to ride the bike until it was unlikely you’d fall again. That’s the beauty of learning.
Incompetence is far different than learning. Its demonstrated by companies who essentially overpromise and underdeliver. This could be in the form of orders not being shipped on time, incorrect deliveries, not being able to provide estimates when a product will be back in stock etc. If we have a choice then we won’t tolerate poor customer service for long until we take our business elsewhere.
With individuals at work, incompetence occurs in many different forms that become apparent when there are errors, missed deadlines, projects exceeding budget etc. If the instances are repeated then it’s mismanagement when nothing isn’t done to rectify the situation.
What can you do?
The first step is to understand what’s really going on. The reasons and actions can be categorised as:
Skill deficiency – to address then support is required in the form of coaching, mentoring or training
Insufficient effort – individuals in this situation need to be held accountable, measured to minimum standards and supported to improve
A mismatch between the individual and the role – managers need to address this as soon as it’s understood
Workload overwhelm – if employees experiencing this would be competent if the workload expectations were more reasonable, then they need to be supported by their manager
The harsh truth is incompetence creates more work, lengthens lead times and costs money. High levels of incompetence are unproductive environments. With whatever you are doing, get it right the first time and you’ll get more done.