Archive for November, 2009

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

November 19th, 2009 by Candy Medina | Posted in Measurement Validation |

It happened again this morning.  I opened my e-mail and was greeted by a subject line reading:  “This is TRUE!!  Check it on Snopes!!!!”   As soon as I see this, my radar goes up and I launch into investigator mode.  It has become a perverse pastime – de-bunking extremist e-mails from both sides of the political fence (especially the ones with an excess of exclamation points in the title).  In my rather informal data tally to date, approximately 85% of these e-mails are either lies or worse, damn lies.  All it takes is five minutes of web surfing to uncover the issues . . . so, why don’t people check the content before they forward half-truths, misrepresentations and other garbage?

 I have a theory.  I’m going to call it ‘The Principle of Attractive Media’.  As with many things, The Principle applies to both home situations and ‘pure’ Six Sigma applications. The core of the theory is that even educated, intelligent people are easily seduced by flashy fonts, embedded pictures or tables and, especially, COLOR.   They want to believe stuff that looks cool. 

 The Principle is evidenced in the world of process improvement by the extreme reluctance of practitioners to even do the most basic checks on the validity of the measurement system they are using.  The blinders come up for a plethora of reasons (excuses), which fall into several general categories:

  1. Duration:  “This is the measurement system we have always used, so it has to be right”
  2. Expense:  “We spent $350,000 on this coordinate measurement machine, and it is robotic – so there is no need to check it”
  3. Output:  “The measurements come off ‘The System’, so they must be good”, and, “The report is coded red, yellow and green”

 Although I am certainly an advocate of statistical methods like Gage R & R to validate measurement systems, it doesn’t always have to be that complicated.  Valid measurement systems have two key characteristics:

  •  They measure what the customer cares about
  • They tell the truth – reflecting actual customer experience

 So whether you are faced with wild-eyed, panic-inducing e-mails or a three-color tabulated report, you should always respond first with skepticism.  Invest the time to check things out.  Where did the information come from?  How can you be sure it’s accurate and reliable?  Answering these questions will give you a better foundation for decision-making in your process improvement projects, and keep you from being one of ‘Those People’ who forward spurious e-mail.