Competence – who cares Spell Check will catch it!

Today I want to talk about competence, or probably more aptly the lack thereof. Let’s start with the question “Does competence really matter anymore?”
Does it matter if every word in your text is spelled correctly?
Does it really matter if everything in your last email was accurate?
Is it important if you’re insurance enrollment card was correct, can’t you just change it later?

Of course most of you who know me will say that my short answer to this is “Are you serious?”

I recently saw a joke about the importance of one letter being missing in a text message. A man was having a great time on a trip so he sent a text message to his wife. When he got home she had filed for divorce based on his text message which said, “having a great time wish you were her!”

Before somebody points out to me that I too have sent emails to the wrong address I wish to agree to a Mea Culpa right now. No matter how important competence is to me or how hard I try, I also make mistakes now and then. The question may not be do we make mistakes, because we all do. The question is more what is our attitude toward general competence and what is our acceptance level for a lack of competence?

What if the credentialing report for your surgeon left out the word “not” when they wanted to indicate he was “not” qualified?

What if the jury left out one word in their verdict they delivered to the judge: “the jury finds the defendant (not) guilty!”

Competence matters and even minor errors can have dramatic impacts on your life.

Today we received a report from a payroll company indicating the people who had added and people had deleted coverages in their open enrollment event. It turns out that due to some programming issue every single event may have been reported incorrectly. Due to a highly competent staff member in my office it was noted that these did not make any sense and she questioned the report. Had she just let that report go through several people would have been erroneously deleted from coverage. Do you think that would have had an impact on their lives? Do you think it might have had some impact on the employer?

Of course competence matters and I would ask where in your lives do you see the demand for competence and knowledge becoming less important. Are you finding more people applying for work whose attitude is who cares you can always fix it later, or spellcheck will catch it?

In every issue it is true that you will get more of what you encourage. If in your work life and your daily life you encourage or except incompetence you will certainly get more of it and the impact on you could be catastrophic. In our situation it eats up valuable time having to check the work of every person and company we deal with due to the increased incompetence caused by a general lack of knowledge, no sense of importance in their own work, and to a great degree due to the increased automation of almost every task.

It can truly be said that to err is human but to truly screw up you need a computer.

Workloads have increased dramatically in every field and this has caused people to rely heavily on computerized solutions to their day-to-day jobs. The problem with taking the human mind out of the endeavor is that once a mistake is made the computer multiplies the magnitude of that mistake many times. It is true that people do make mistakes just because were people, and were busy. However, when you couple being human with an increased reliance on computerization and automation it becomes imperative that each person have a sense of personal honor and dedication to competence.

I have a sign over my desk that says “Is that your best work?” Are you doing your best work? Is competence important to you?

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