Does a “Typo” Eliminate Personal Accountability?

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Does a “Typo” Eliminate Personal Accountability?

I continue to be amazed at the number of errors that consistently show up in Annual Reports and financial statements of public companies. An excellent example of this was highlighted in Todd Wallack’s October 4, 2010, Boston Globe article (In reporting pay, firms can err big: Figures on executives off by up to $500,000). The article reports several examples of significant errors on reported executive compensation, from a mere twenty dollars to more than half a million dollars with several errors in the hundreds of thousands.

When questioned, the reasons the companies gave for the errors were exactly the same as the reasons I often hear from my clients before they attend our Accuracy Training. They blamed typos, switched digits, omitted numbers, transposed digits, and my favorite, “fat finger typos” (added digits). I find it very interesting that companies, and most individuals, deny having any responsibility or accountability for errors, specifically typos. In working with clients, I’ve found that the vast majority of these types of errors are not due to incorrect keyboarding, but rather due to a lack of:

  • Concentration or focus,
  • Proper data handling techniques, or
  • Effective proofreading.

In addition to the errors themselves, the article correctly points out a more significant issue. “There is no evidence of deliberate efforts to deceive investors. But the errors raise a broader, more troubling question: What else is wrong with the reports?” (Wallack, 2010).

Do you work in a department that loses credibility when errors are made? Are decisions being made at your organization based on incorrect data? How much confidence do you have in a company when they can’t even get the simple things right? I challenge you to make a New Year’s resolution to take responsibility and be accountable for your errors, specifically typos. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in your credibility and your organization’s bottom line.

To read the full article, visit the Boston Globe archives or email [email protected].