Some Misguided Error Proofing?


    Hilton hotels introduced a new standardized alarm clock that seems to be in all Hilton properties now (including where I am in Midland TX right now). The clock has some nice features, such as pre-programmed music buttons, so if you want “News”, you just press the button and you don't need to know what AM or FM channel you're tuning to. Nice example of simplification and standardization. Once I learn how to use the Hilton clock, it's consistent at each Hilton. Why it's complicated to set the time on any alarm clock is a whole different discussion.

    But, I have one beef — it's impossible to set the time on the clock. You can set the alarm, but you can't set the time. I've never noticed this because the time has never been wrong I guess. The clock was off (see picture, the timestamp is 11 PM) and I couldn't figure out how to change it.

    I called the front desk and was told that you can't set the time as a guest. Maintenance has to do it. Ugh. It seems like a case where they've “error proofed” the clock, in a way, but they've taken away functionality. Was that an error worth “proofing”??

    How often does this happen with software, products, or in industrial settings? Is this a fine line between error proofing and being overly cautious in protecting people from themselves?

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. I was in a Hilton last week as well, but in Colorado Springs… I had the same clock but maintenance apparently did not know how to set the values… and each station sounded the same (white noise)…

    2. Seems like a case of good technology, but a bad (or inconsistent) process. Maybe Hilton has training issues internally or a lack of disciplined supervision to make sure this technology is working. Geesh, it’s just an alarm clock. At least with an old style clock, you could have turned the dial to find a station manually.

      I guess this is a lesson in how technology alone isn’t usually the answer.

    3. I was at the Houston Hobby Hilton last month and had the same problem. I could only get static when trying to set the radio alarm function.

      Eventually I gave up on the silly thing…life’s just too short so I enable the buzz on it along with my phone and travel alarms.

      You really need to wake up when on the road ; – )

      I’ll bet Hilton thinks they got a great deal on those fancy alarms.


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