by Jay McNally, Lean Specialist
Apparently, humans begin to understand the concept of measurement sometime before their fourth birthday. I know this because my four year old daughter recently said to me “Dad, I put away five books. Is that enough for you to give me some money?” Sometime in the past four years she’s learned that certain things matter enough to be counted and that by counting them she can evaluate whether she’s been successful.
I hope that she continues practicing and improving her measurement skills (hopefully long after she’s done asking me for money) because eventually she’ll learn how important they are in the workplace. Here at King County, good measurements are fundamental to understanding whether we’re meeting customer requirements and taxpayer expectations. Just like you rely on the speedometer in your car, you rely on process metrics in your job. Unlike in your car however, the metrics that are important at work change from process to process and over time. It’s our job to figure out what things to measure and how to do it.
There are usually two reasons to measure – you either want things to change or you want them to stay the same. When you are actively working to change something, the metrics you choose are described as driver metrics. On the other hand, when a process is under control and you measure it “just in case” those are described as watch metrics. Ideally your team will agree to just a few driver metrics (no more than 3-4) but you can choose as many driver metrics as are important and informative. The value in using these terms is that they align people around targeted areas of improvement that deserve special attention.
When defining how to measure, Lean practitioners frequently rely on numbers describing Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety, or Morale (commonly abbreviated as QCDSM).
- Quality: A measurement of deviance from a standard that has been created based on customer requirements. This is essentially an evaluation of how frequently a process successfully creates the expected output.
- Cost: The cost of delivering a product. Frequently, this is measured at the “cost per unit” level.
- Delivery: A measurement of time, such as cycle time (the length of time it takes to complete a process), downtime, or delays.
- Safety: Any evaluation of the health or safety of employees or customers.
- Morale: An evaluation of the morale of the workforce.
One value of the QCDSM scheme is that it allows balanced measures, such as improving quality without increasing cost. Another value is that it is helps us to consider all aspects of a process that may be important. Finally, it provides enough of a framework that it helps you think about what to measure, but it allows you to be incredibly creative in determining a good measure for your specific situation.
Albert Einstein famously said “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” Hopefully this quote inspires you to be critical in deciding what you want to drive or watch then it inspires you to find a creative way within the QCDSM scheme to measure it.