"Be Careful" is Not Enough


I was boarding an American Airlines Super 80 at DFW yesterday, I noticed a warning sign on the controls of the jet bridge. As I've said before, “warning signs are not error proofing.” That certainly applies here.

There was a red stop sign logo with text on it that said “Be careful” and something to the effect about employees remembering to do some safety doublecheck to make sure that the planes didn't crash into the jet bridge. I would have taken a photo with my camera phone, but didn't want to end up on some TSA list.

Either way, you'll have to trust me. I'll try to be more prepared for a photo next time. American would be better served in putting in real error proofing measures that are better than just saying “be careful.” Even the most professional and reliable employees might have a bad day or a bad moment.

“Be careful” doesn't cut it, whether the issue is about saving $$ for American or if it's a safety issue for passengers. What about a mechanical error proofing device of sorts to prevent the potential mishap? What about a standard work process checklist (like pilots use) to make sure the check isn't forgotten??

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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. Dear Mark,

    Airport operations overall are a target rich environment for improvement: Poor flow of passengers and baggage, unnecessary bottlenecks (ticket counter, security), little regard for what the customer needs while waiting (outlets for PCs, a clock that’s visible, more comfortable chairs).

  2. Isn’t it funny how often we need a camera? I recently got a Blackberry and it doesn’t have a camera. I sure miss my old Nokia camera phone in situations like you discussed here Mark.


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