Is 99.99% Good Enough?

Earlier this week, I was meeting with one of my work colleagues and we got into a conversation about errors that are made at work. It’s not unusual for someone to say, “Well, I do it correctly 99% of the time.” For some people, that might seem like a pretty good ratio.

But when this came up in our conversation, I was reminded of the work I did more than 30 years ago studying and implementing TQM (Total Quality Management). The following list is discussed often when it comes to 99.99% quality:

Possible Outcomes of 99.99% Quality 

What is the potential outcome if 99.99% is the quality metric standard?

  • 119,760 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly this year.
  • 144 incorrect medical procedures occur daily.
  • 110,600 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year.
  • 18 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.
  • 23,666 defective computers will be shipped this year.
  • 22,792 pieces of mail will be mishandled in the next hour.
  • 2,434,300 books will be sent in the next 12 months with the wrong cover.
  • 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next 12 months.
  • 56,700 checks will be deducted from false bank accounts in the next hour.
  • 567 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly this year.
  • 315 entries in the most recent Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged) will be misspelled.
  • 69 malfunctioning ATMs will be installed in the next 12 months.
  • 810 commercial airline flights would crash every month.
  • 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
  • 2 million documents will be lost by the IRS this year.
  • 2 plane landings daily at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago will be unsafe.

When we consider the implications in medical procedures or commercial airline flights, it puts things in perspective.

What is your expectation for yourself and for others when it comes to accomplishing tasks? Whether it is at home or work, or with family, friends or coworkers, we set the standard in terms of acceptable expectations with our own self-standards.

I know that I oftentimes drive my coworkers and family crazy with my goal of 100% accuracy—but after reviewing this list, perhaps they will understand why I ask so many questions and strive for 100%.

So, as you transition this week into another year, perhaps you will consider what percentage of accuracy and accomplishment are acceptable to you. What will you tolerate?

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

And I didn’t imagine ever saying this … I am actually looking forward to seeing the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA, this Saturday morning, after it was cancelled last year. It will make me feel like things are getting back to normal!