July 13, 2011 | Barb Carr

Root Cause Analysis Tip: Measurements … "Smeasurements"! Who Needs Them?

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If today was Wednesday … what measurements (metrics) could be used to describe it:

1. There are 52 Wednesdays in the Calendar Year of 2012.

2. There were 53 Wednesdays in the Calendar Year of 1873.

3. Wednesdays make up 14% of the Days of a Calendar Year.

4. There are 9 letters in the word Wednesday: 2 e’s, 1 w, 2 d’s, 1 s, 1 n, 1 a and 1 y to be exact.

5. There are two syllables in the word Wednesday.

The point of my number parade? Simple, we can measure anything … but does it provide value or predictability? Are the numbers representative of what one is truly trying to measure?

In the Changing the Way the World Solves Problems book provided to all our TapRooT® students, there is a section titled A Guide to Improving the Use of TapRooT®. The tip today from this guide focuses on Topic 1: Measurements. With the first question being, has your company agreed on a reliable measurement system?

Why a measurement system and not standalone metrics that represent individual problems in individual departments? The answer is because no one person or one department works in true isolation. Measurements of money savings, defect reductions, tool repair or tool selection reported by one department may actually cause an increase of those measurements in another department. So no actual money saved for the company!

Developing a Reliable Measurement System starts with the developing and defining the fundamental components and rules for your company. I caution against generic one-fits all Systems developed outside of your company.


Measurement: An observable (observed either by human or equipment) behavior (behavior of equipment, people or process) that can be measured quantitatively or qualitatively.

Rules for Measurements:

  1. Only used to measure for what it was intended to measure. Nothing worse than using someone else’s numbers for your own needs just to find out it does not measure what you thought it did.
  2. Collected and Documented using the same method with the same types of tools (equipment, forms). Not sure of the consistency of your measurement collection process? Perform a Measurement System Analysis (MSA) on it.

Types Measurements (Just to mention a few):

  • Operation
  • Production
  • Human Resources
  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Warranty
  • Financial (Fringe or Burdened)
  • Maintainability and Reliability
  • Regulatory
  • Direct or Indirect Labor/Costs

Purpose for Measurements:

  1. Predictive Indicator- Can tell you what could happen before it happens. Note: No predictor is 100% correct but many are very reliable.
  2. Lagging Indicator- Too late! Good or bad news, it already happened but it is a necessary to know. Note that some Lagging indicators can be a leading indicator for another lagging indicator. For example, an increase in near misses can be a predictor of a severe incident if not corrected.

Measurement System: A system allows good measurements to produce good indicators. Of course it also allows junk in junk out, even with the best system in place. So to help define what a measurement system is or could be, answer these questions:

  1. Based on the measurements input, can you see the company “big picture” and can you then break down these indicators to their lowest input level?
  2. Are reports and graphs pulled from one central location to prevent duplication?
  3. Are measurements pulled from the same set of numbers to increase consistent trending?
  4. Is the system audited for consistency and accuracy?

Seems like a lot to make sure you know where your company is going and where it has been doesn’t it? Did I also tell you that you should also be able to translate all measurement indicators into company production and operation dollars? As the our book says, “dollars are the language and measuring stick of management.”

If this post gets you to think … “Why does this make so much sense and why did I not think of this before with the same perspective”?

If the answer is yes, then I have some options for you that appear once a year in a public setting this February:

Advanced Trending Techniques
TapRooT® Quality/Six Sigma/Lean Advanced Root Cause Analysis Training


Chris Vallee joined System Improvements in 2007 and is a Senior Associate, TapRooT® Instructor, and Investigation Facilitator.

Root Cause Analysis
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