One of the many fun duties I have in my current position is what is called a “CAR Champion”. The acronym stands for Corrective Action Report or Corrective Action Request, depending on your company. What it basically means, is a process or product did not create the desired or required result and something needs fixed. I’m the person who creates the report with evidence of the failure, the requirement that failed to be met and assigns names to the report that become responsible for actions to be taken. Let’s just say, it is a job duty that can make someone not the most popular person in the building. Even though I may be largely an evidence gatherer and assignment messenger, it’s still my name they see in the email from our system saying (in their interpretation) “you messed up now fix it.”
Any established quality system is going to have a corrective and preventive action program. A corrective action is; taking action on a nonconformity that has already happened. A preventive action is; taking action on something that has the potential of resulting in a nonconformity. It is common in my experience that supervisors and managers are not exactly “thrilled to bits” at receiving communication saying they are responsible for either action, as it is only seen as a failure. The aspect that most of them miss, is that taking decisive ownership of a corrective or preventive action request can result in positive improvements in their departments, provide a multitude of leadership opportunities throughout the process, promote team building moments and development opportunities that can identify other leaders in their company.
I have held this type of position in my last two career stops. It’s a position that requires help and involves hurt (reference Kevin Bowser’s article). The most successful corrective or preventive actions are those that are conducted by leaders who take active ownership of the issue identified in the evidence. They do not try to deflect the ownership over to other people or departments. They do not take short cuts on the process of root cause analysis and effective corrective actions. They take the issue, own it, dissect it, put the proper fixes in place, check the effectiveness of those fixes and then move forward with a new and improved process. When they own it, it truly has an effect larger than themselves. I just spent time hosting an auditor doing a follow up on corrective actions in our facility. I felt blessed when I saw my schedule, because I knew the schedule included CAR’s performed by true leaders of their actions. Every CAR that was reviewed by the auditor, not only got closed, but got closed with positive comments from the auditor as the effort was tangible in the process improvement. The ownership of actions, made my job that day easy.
A quick way to lead a CAR/PAR system into an abyss plummeting spiral and ensure it has a long lasting bad taste in the mouths of supervisors and managers is to use it as a punishment tool and/or a political weapon. I have experienced systems where it is evident that managers in position of power over others used them as a way to express power and leverage over the other department head. It was not about improving a system or process, but inflicting damage and a show of power. The spirit of any healthy CAR/PAR system is about improvement, about delighting your customer (be it an internal or external customer). The motivation of why someone requests a CAR/PAR is just as important as taking ownership of receiving one. Ownership is absolutely essential for a productive and effective CAR/PAR system, but one that has been used as a perversion of power can have long lasting effects on a company’s team in how they feel about the process as a whole. It is critical to keep the motivation behind the CAR to be free of hidden agendas.
Receiving that notification of a corrective action issuance in your email has a similar ring to it as hearing from your spouse that they “Need to Talk” with you. You know something is wrong and it’s going to get talked about. If you are a male, like I am, talking about serious relational issues is not exactly in your comfort zone and a feeling of dread is common. However, when I look back on discussions I have had with my wife, when I have been open to listening to her, open to seeing what is being said from her perspective and taking ownership of my part in whatever may have gone wrong or may be improved………..shockingly, the conversations have always gone better. I don’t think that is just a coincidence. Also, when we are the ones going in and requesting a “talk”, let’s be sure we are doing it with the the best of intentions. If we want our spouses to see things from our perspective, then our perspective should be coming to them in a form of love and not a dagger. Our intentions should be one of building, not tearing down.
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