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Improve #18: STEP SEVEN - Monitor Results and Process

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

When we are walking, we need our eyes to see where we are going. Walking with our eyes closed will lead to an imminent fall. The same applies to this process, we must see what we are doing so that we know if we are doing it right or not.

We executed the PLAN phase (Steps 1-5), and the DO phase (Step 6) already. We have done a lot so far, but Step 7 will help us CHECK if we are doing a good job or not.

STEP SEVEN - Monitor Results and Process

If we are implementing countermeasures, we need to know what is happening. We need to see how high is high, or how low is low. We need data. Once we pinpoint a problem, propose root causes and decide on countermeasures, we must gather data. Data is what is will tell us if something is happening or not.

Allow me to illustrate with a fascinating story.

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe diarrhea, leading to dehydration and even death if untreated. In 1854, a Cholera outbreak killed 616 people in London. Deaths were increasing and doctors didn't know what to do until Dr. John Snow stepped in. Snow didn't have the answers, but he knew that data would lead somewhere. So, he started collecting data by finding out where most death cases where. He mapped the information and found that most of the cases were in the area surrounding Broadwick Street in London. At the time, people thought that this infectious disease came by "bad air", but Dr. Snow challenged that because he didn't believe that was true for cholera but he had to prove it.

After data showed where most deaths had occurred, he decided to check the water sources. He found that there were 3 water pumps in that part of the city. So, he decided to find out where the people that had died had gotten their water from. With the help of a clergy friend, he visited hundreds of houses and was able to correlate deaths to a particular water pump. After he figured this out, authorities approved his request to shut down the Broadwick Street water pump. After removing the pump lever, deaths decreased. How fascinating is to see a doctor become a national hero, because of the power of data!

Original map by John Snow showing the clusters of cholera cases (indicated by rectangles) in the London epidemic of 1854. Click on image for more (CREDITS: Wikipedia)

John Snow not only caused a great impact on the science of Epidemiology, but also in the field of Anesthesiology. He is actually known as the "father of Anesthesiology" because through data gathering, he managed to determine the exact dose of chloroform depending on age, body size, etc. That was a breakthrough at a time when no one knew how to use anesthesia.

I guess that I made my point. the CHECK phase is just as fascinating as PLAN and DO. Data gathering will lead to conclusions, conclusions will lead to more questions, questions will lead to more data, and if we do this over and over, we will find the solution to our problem!

Broadwick Street water pump showing the John Snow memorial and public house. Click on image for more (CREDITS: Wikipedia)

John Snow didn't know the 8-steps, but he was definitely implementing PDCA over and over until his data confirmed that cholera was not an airborne disease. He also proved that the source of the problem was the water from a pump which was mistakenly installed 3 feet away from a septic tank full of feces and bacteria.

Data has led to most of the greatest discoveries and continues to lead to successful problem-solving.

Are you ready to solve a problem by collecting data too? Where would you begin?

APPLICATION: Please think of our shoe problem from our previous steps. We adopted "Poor quality of raw materials" as a probable cause, but now, we need to find out if this is true or not.

How do we do that?

Gather data.

Find a way to create a data form that will have information that can correlate returned shoes with possible poor quality materials. Can you create a form with questions that can connect returned shoes to bad materials?

Let's consider another option: What if we adopt something else as a probable root cause? Feel free to create a form for what YOU think is the most probable root cause. Whatever you do, your form must contain fields of data that will connect a cause with a problem.

FOR MORE ABOUT JOHN SNOW'S STORY: England: The Broad Street Pump - You Know Nothing, John Snow - Extra History - #1

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