Apple and I Made a Similar Mistake: 24 or 2024?

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The other day, I was presenting at a company about “Psychological Safety as a Pre-Condition for Continuous Improvement.” It was a hybrid event and I noticed, during the Q&A period, that somebody on Teams chatted about me making a mistake.

I said, “Thank you for pointing out the mistake!!”

I think that's a helpful way to respond. It was kind of that person to point out the mistake — it was helpful.

I had shared a URL for finding slides and additional resources with this as the end of the URL:

PSMarch24

They said, “The URL doesn't work, it says 404 not found.”

Oh my! A mistake in my slide during a talk about, among other things, helping people feel safe to speak up about mistakes.

I'm glad that person on Teams felt safe to point that out. But there really wasn't any need for them to be fearful. To me, it was an anonymous person. That wasn't a risky thing for them to do.

I quickly realized that the URL really ended with:

PSMarch2024

Oops! That was an easy mistake for me to make. I made the mistake of not testing that link in advance. I would have discovered the error and I could have fixed it in advance.

I was able to fix the mistake very quickly right after the talk – setting it so either URL would work. But it caused some inconvenience for that person and, possibly, others.

I didn't spend too much time thinking about the mistake. It certainly wasn't a life-or-death impact.

But I thought about it again when somebody at KaiNexus pointed out this news story about a mistake at Apple:

Your AirTags are updated already, because Apple got the date format wrong

What happened? Apple normally chooses to roll out AirTags firmware updates in a gradual way. In Lean speak, they are level loading the impact on their servers.

They don't want all AirTags trying to update at the same time. They normally have different serial numbers update on different days.

Somebody on Twitters seems to have sleuthed (not guessed) that somebody at Apple set the date for updates as “24” instead of “2024.”

Since all AirTags were set to update on (or after) different dates in the YEAR 24… they all started updating.

It makes me wonder what the cost or operational impact was to Apple and their servers. Was the impact relatively small or really big?

It also makes me wonder if that sort of coding could be mistake-proofed — to check to ensure that a four-digit year is used. Or does that create a future Y10K problem??

It's human error — my mistake and Apple's. Notice that I'm calling this “Apple's mistake.” I hope an individual wasn't blamed or punished for this at Apple. The company and its leaders need to look at systems, the risk of mistakes, and mistake-proofing.

What can Apple and other software makers learn from this?


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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 COMMENT

  1. I think that companies are too quick to roll out new tech or new updates. Whoever’s job it was put the information in made a simple mistake but it was a costly one I’m sure. It caused the user to have a delay and reap the benefit of the upgrade. It also caused Apple to have a delay with the roll out as well which probably caused a work stoppage. Apple could not move forward due to having to re-do the year. Hello? we have been in 2024 for 3-4 months. When filling out forms, the four digit year is almost always what is required. I am surprised that the software allowed the person to put “24”” rather than “2024”. Usually it will get kicked back until it is corrected.

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