One of my favorite stories from living on the road as a consultant is the hotel story. We had a team of consultants working in New Jersey at a pharmaceutical company for over a year. Most of us stayed at the same hotel.
After you spend weeks or months at the same hotel you get to know the staff; especially the front desk. One thing about the hotel is that they are consistent. This hotel consistently had problems with TVs and toilets, to name just two common complaints. They had a process when guests called the front desk to complain. The desk agent would fill out a work request form and provide the carbon copy to the maintenance staff. The front desk kept the original.
One day I was standing in the lobby and overheard a complaint call from a guest. He just checked into his room and there was no remote control for his TV. The front desk apologized and promised the guest a remote. The agent promptly filled out the maintenance request and called maintenance saying “Take the remote out of room 123 and bring it to room 108.” I am not making this up.
The hotel was just moving the problem from one room to another. While their solution may have satisfied the guest in room 108, they will soon have the same problem when a guest checks into room 123. But, let that be someone else’s problem. The desk agent will likely be off duty in a while, and someone else will have to deal with the unhappy guest in room 123. Problem solved quickly.
I ask you how often do you see people address a quality problem with the very simplest Band-Aid solution, like moving a remote control from room to room? It happens quite often. If the hotel staff knew the difference between a “Correction” and a “Corrective Action” they would know that to fix the problem properly you need to “prevent reoccurrence”. (See ISO definition below.) Buying some additional remotes would likely prevent reoccurrence! Too bad they didn’t think of that.
ISO 9000:2005 Sec. 3.6 defines them as follows:
Correction – Action to eliminate a detected nonconformity
Corrective action – Action to eliminate the cause of a detected nonconformity