Root Cause Analysis - What is really the problem? Measurements

Root Cause Analysis - What is really the problem? Measurements

     In this final piece of this series, we will address "measurements" as a reason or reasons you may not be hitting your goals. The previous articles covered these other factors: environment, people, materials, equipment and methods as possible reasons you may not be hitting your goals.

Measurement is defined as: An observable (observed either by human or equipment) behavior (behavior of equipment, people or process) that can be measured quantitatively or qualitatively. So, goal outcomes or results can also be measured and how you go about measuring your goals must be precise and defined.

Let's Measure Monday

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

  1. There are 52 Mondays in the Calendar Year of 2019.
  2. There were 53 Mondays in the Calendar Year of 2002.
  3. Mondays make up 14 percent of the Days of a Calendar Year.
  4. There are two syllables in the word Monday.
  5. There are six letters in the word Monday: 1 m, 1 o, 1 n, 1 d, 1 a, and 1 y to be exact.

So, Monday can be measured. We can measure just about anything … but does the measurement provide value or predictability? Are the numbers representative of what one is truly trying to measure? When setting up a measurement design for a goal, special attention must be used to ensure good data is being tracked.

Is There Method to your Measurement?

The method in which you track your goals or the outcomes may change over time. Take for example, a corporate sales goal for a product you may only sell 3 or 4 times a year. In the oil and gas world, some jobs take up to six months or more to complete, although it is possible to track some details of the drilling process on a monthly basis, the overall job and total outcomes cannot be tracked on that schedule. It may make more sense to track outcomes quarterly rather than monthly. Or, as market conditions change, it may be more important to count outcomes differently. For example, where it may have made sense to track total widgets made, it could now make more sense to track sales from total widgets or cost to manufacture parts.

For a simpler example, let us think about what method you are currently using to track your goals. Are you simply creating goals and tracking outcomes on a spreadsheet? Or, do you even have your goals written down?  It is important to have an agreed upon method for tracking goals so that all parties are aware of the outcomes and where the information being tracked is coming from. If your result data comes from a specific report, everyone should know what that report is and what the data looks like on it.

Precision is the Key

For an example of measurements, let's will look at employee turnover rates. Turnover rate is commonly measured by calculating the number of employees terminated divided by the total number of active employees. This calculation by itself is straight forward; however, the method of how you look at the outcomes can vary. Companies want to know on a monthly basis what the employee turnover rate is, but that number can be calculated differently with different results. It can be measured monthly or it can be calculated on a rolling calendar, including more complex calculations that may be seen as a more accurate number. The key is to have a consistent process and a defined method of tracking the outcomes. Although these two ways of tracking turnover will give you an accurate number, they will also give you two different numbers, with one of them reflecting a better score than the other. If you are tracking it one way and your HR department is tracking it another, then you potentially could miss you turnover goals for the month or year.

Although measurements may be the least common area where goals are missed, it is important. If your method of measurement is inconsistent, then your monthly and yearly goals will be off as well. It is important when creating your goal initially to look at methodology and agree with your supervisor on how your goals are to be measured and to agree on the desired results.

Hopefully, this series will help you better understand how or why you are not hitting your goals. As discussed, there could be several reasons that you may not be hitting your goals. It is also possible and likely there is more than one reason for failures; the key is to identify what the issues are and why, then create a plan to correct. Root cause analysis may seem a bit daunting, but when broken into pieces, challenges are not hard to tackle and the process will help create a plan to move forward.

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