Mistakes Aren’t Only Made by ‘Rookies’


This Snickers commercial always makes me chuckle, and I saw it again last night during an NFL playoff game:

The punchline is that this stadium worker has meticulously painted, in the end zone, the word CHEFS instead of CHIEFS, as in the Kansas City Chiefs.

The theme of this, and a series of Snickers commercials, is “rookie mistakes.” And, if you make one, you should eat their candy bar as a way to console yourself. Or should you have fueled up with a Snickers to avoid making such a mistake?

Mistakes like these happen in real life, which might have inspired the commercial.

2016 Super Bowl

Workers at Levi's Stadium in California mistakenly painted both end zones with the Denver Broncos' name and colors instead of painting one for the Carolina Panthers, as discussed on the NBC show, Today. Was this mistake made by a “rookie” or “rookies”? We don't know, but experienced people can make mistakes.

2016 NFL Hall of Fame Game

2016 was a bad year for field painting mishaps, as another was described here:

Hall of Fame Game fiasco: How the wrong paint, melted rubber, and caustic paint thinner nixed Packers-Colts

Somebody used the wrong kind of paint to touch up logos in the end zones — at the last minute, on the day of the game. The paint wasn't drying quickly enough, so somebody decided to try using heat to dry the paint, which melted some of the pellets that are part of the artificial turf. They then tried using a paint remover that was caustic and would have caused skin problems if players contacted it.

That sounds more like a “rookie mistake,” where an apparent lack of knowledge led to some bad decisions, as opposed to the Super Bowl end zones mistake that might have just been a mental “lapse” on the part of a person or a team.

The NFL did the right thing, putting safety first, and canceled that pre-season game.

2012 Minnesota-Crookston

Somebody at the University of Minnesota-Crookston painted their “M” mid-field logo so that it was centered on the 45 yard line instead of the 50. You know, as in MID-field?

Minnesota-Crookston Paints Logo On Wrong Part Of Football Field

We all make mistakes, even people who are experienced. I use checklists to avoid making mistakes related to my podcasts and webinars that I host, and I've done a lot of them.

But, sometimes we get lax when we've gone a long time without making a mistake in a repeated process. We might get distracted or be under time pressure.

It's not just “rookies” who make mistakes.

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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. So true! I remember working with a large state insurance organization. We were dealing with claims processing errors and everyone assumed it was the newbies–But the data showed it was the people who’d been there the longest making the errors. After observing and talking to the new and veteran claims adjusters, I found the veterans were using outdated databases (they were more comfortable using them than the new system), and a whole slew of instances where the veterans relied on assumptions whereas the newbies stuck to the script. Fascinating!


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