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Is Your Manufacturing Performance Causal, Correlated or Corrected?

Five_WhysLearning from history is not a new concept, nor is it specific to manufacturing. Learning from past mistakes, ours or others, ensures progress. So why is the exercise of “corrective actions” so annoying? Partly the time it takes, partly because of people’s attitudes involved, partly because we suspect the process is flawed, or partly because we erroneously think our manufacturing floor is too complex for 5 Whys. Sadly, many view “corrective actions” as punishment and the tools in the bucket the execution of the punishment.

Fundamentally, corrective actions and the tools to help are based on tried and true ways to “fix” stuff. They offer strong platforms to ensure you get to the causal, not the correlated, issue. However, they take time and persistence.

Over the next few weeks, I want to explore some of the building blocks of corrective actions, things like 5 whys, PDCAs, 8Ds, fish bone, 4Ms.

If these are not part of your vocabulary, tools you pull out daily, I would argue you aren’t really focused on corrective actions.

I believe discipline makes us better – it comes in all forms and it always improves us.

Be intentional,

Do Your Metrics Measure Up?

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Excerpt From: Hertz, Noreena. “Eyes Wide Open.”

You have heard it said that “you get what you measure”. I have seen this to be very true. However, not always in a good way. I have seen the wrong metrics produce unsustainable balance sheets, or worse, drive companies into the ground. I have seen leaders hold this axiom as the final truth, operating with the thought process of, “Set up the metrics and no steering will be required”.

Do You Measure Up

Pick the right size measuring cup (metric) for the job. One size doesn’t fit all. Image courtesy Jay Holobach.

The issue is that metrics are not created equally. Not everything critical to foundational sustainability can be easily measured. Force fitting a metric, just to have a pretty graph in a powerpoint that doesn’t tell the real story, drives the wrong focus and fails to deliver progress in the end. Worse, we waste time measuring the inconsequential, pulling much needed resources from that which is foundational to success and sustainability. Pick your metrics wisely.

Don’t get me wrong, metrics are necessary – for communication, for helping assess trajectories, for accountability, or for driving improvements. They are critical for a healthy enterprise to stay healthy. They are critical for a team to know if they are making progress and sustaining. But they have to be the right metrics, and they can’t be the end-all. In addition, we must put the same energy on dealing with those things we know are critical, yet can’t be easily measured.

What in your sphere of influence “counts, but can’t be counted”? What are you personally doing to improve “what counts” – even if it has no metric? When we find and improve these things, we will be building a stronger, sustainable culture that we all want to be a part of.

Be intentional,

Discover manufacturing’s secret weapon: “C _ _ a t _ _ i _ y”


Starting a still life painting by blueprinting the shapes.


It comes in many forms. We see it in art, in music, in fashion, in New York Best Sellers, in architecture, in marketing…. Our world is a better place because of creative designs, creative arts, creative solutions.

What about solutions? Is that really a creative outlet? Usually when people talk about creativity they are talking about art and designs.

Manufacturing lives-and-breaths on creativity in solutions: solutions that make us safer, solutions that drive in quality without increasing time or money. You may have heard of “the KIS method” – “Keep It Simple”. Simple solutions don’t mean half-thought-out. Nor do they mean water-down concepts. Simple solutions are hard to find because they are not always obvious. Simple solutions are elegant. They can solve many issues with one action. They can be maintained without significant over-site. It takes more creative energy to find and execute a” simple solution”.

“…keep their eyes not only on present troubles, but also on the lookout for future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy. When problems are foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they have arrived, it is too late to administer the medicine, because the problem has become incurable.”  from The Municipal Machiavelli, Machiavelli’s The Prince Rewritten for Municipal Politicians

In other words, small problems are hard to see but easy to fix when found. Big problems are easy to see, but nearly impossible to fix. Waiting until you see the problem means you might be too late.

As leaders, we need to find ways to let creativity flow as we drive improvements across our span of control. We need to ask questions that get people thinking, questions that inspire creativity. We need to get conversations going: “what if…”; “is it possible…”. We need to clear out the noise of the day, of the week, allowing the team to ponder, consider, explore creative solution sets. We need to be willing to talk through the issues and come out the other side. That takes time, patience and energy.

Manufacturing lives-and-breaths on creative solution sets. As the leader of a team, how are you unlocking their creativity?

kind regards,



Here’s the finished painting… Painting courtesy Jay Holobach, for more visit: