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Brevity Reduces Errors

To reduce the chance of human error occurring, clearly communicate all the information needed for correct task performance – but do it as briefly as possible.


When information is wordy and poorly organized, people make errors because they may never see or hear the information they need. Many businesses struggle to find this balance. Look how common it is to find standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are 10, 20, even 50 pages long!

For 23 years, I’ve been teaching clients to produce brief recognition aids – generally no more than 2 pages so they can be laminated and carried, or easily navigated on a tablet. Often, these documents were originally 10 pages or more! It’s no wonder that operators, burdened with reading many such procedures, admit to skimming them instead! Skimming leads to missing vital information and making errors.


Brief recognition aids help prevent human error in other ways. Up to 70% of human errors are made just after a break or at the beginning of the day – because the person’s mind is not yet immersed in the task. When recognition aids are designed with easy navigation, with brief action steps in process order, and with visual cues for correct performance, they help the person mentally engage. Brevity at Work can teach you how to design brief recognition aids for your processes, or can write them for you. Using such aids, you will prevent many costly errors.

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