Correction vs Corrective Action

Three BandagesIt still amazes me that there are people that do not comprehend the difference between a correction and a corrective action.  Why, you may ask me, does this aggravate me so?  Well, when corrections are taken instead of corrective actions, then the opportunity to improve is lost and time and effort are wasted.


Let’s start with some definitions.  Correction is taking action to correct a problem.  Corrective action is action taken to correct the cause of the problem and preventing it from happening again.  An example would be your child falling in the backyard and scraping their knee.  The correction would be the application of a band aid on the scraped knee.  The corrective action would involve looking in the back yard and determining what caused your child from falling in the first place, the sprinkler being left out in the grass and not visible due to the height of the grass.  And the corrective action could take multiple actions, such as putting the sprinkler away immediately after watering the grass and cutting the grass more often, so that it doesn’t obscure obstacles.  We are going to implement both the correction, the immediate action to fix the problem, the scraped knee, and then we are going to prevent the problem from happening again, putting away the sprinkler and mowing the lawn.


As an auditor, I see this a lot.  Great identification of problems and even good subsequent documentation of those problems, but the next step, the resolution of the problem is when I start to get frustrated.  I understand why you may not always implement a corrective action, such as cost versus reward based decisions.  But when there is no real effort in trying to identify potential corrective actions, then this is the problem.


Why?  Because if we don’t take corrective action, then we are doomed to have the same problems occurring.  This causes cost and inefficiencies, and in the case of safety, potential health effects.  If we don’t mow that lawn, then little Jimmy, and then potentially Suzie and all of their friends may trip over that sprinkler, and potentially that rake as well, and hurt themselves.


When auditing nonconformities, as subsequent corrective actions, there are a number of things that we need to look for:


  • The problem is clearly defined.  Many times a cause or a solution is documented in the problem statement, pre-determining the resolution before any investigation is conducted.

Jimmy tripped and scraped his knee.  Kliponious-green-tick

Jimmy tripped while running too fast.  X-marks-the-spot

  • The root cause is investigated thoroughly.  Don’t just stop at the person that got injured was at fault because they failed to do something.  85% of incidents can be attributed to a management issue.  Management small m, not large M, where there is a lack of resources provided, such as training, tools, supervision, time, or procedures and guidance.

Jimmy wasn’t watching where he was running.  X-marks-the-spot

Jimmy didn’t see the sprinkler as he was running.  He didn’t see it because the grass was too long.  Also, he didn’t anticipate it because it wasn’t usually out in the yard when he was playing.  Kliponious-green-tick

  • Are the actions implemented effective in preventing the nonconformity from happening again?  There needs to be a review, to determine whether the actions taken are effective.  First does it address the cause of the problem sufficiently.  Second is it a permanent solution?  Next summer, will dad forget to bring in the sprinkler and fail to mow the lawn in a timely manner, or do additional actions need to be implemented?


Does your organization consistently have the same problems?  Perhaps the corrective action process is not as strong as thought.

4 Responses

  1. George Brandon says:

    Thanks for sharing your views. There are standards that refer to preventive action, how does P/A fit into this?

    • Ivana says:

      Ah, you bring up a very good question. Preventive actions are the same but different and even more difficult and have a whole different set of issues. This is the next topic I was planning on tackling.

      Simply put, while corrective actions are not being done thoroughly, preventive actions are not being identified. They are being done, but not recognized.

  2. Vivian Black says:

    You made a great point about how the problem is clearly defined and will need to be before any investigation. My husband and I work for a small business and we were put to the task of finding a corrective action software for the whole company to use. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us.

  3. govardhan says:

    Thank you for the clear cut clarification.

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