Posted by: JC Gatlin | March 5, 2010

Counter Measures: Bringing balance to the process


A Counter Measure is an action that corrects or “counter acts” the Root Cause creating the problem. Counter Measures bring balance to an out of balance process, but they are not solutions. A solution implies that a problem is solved and no further action is required. With a Counter Measure, you will follow-up to ensure you are achieving the expected results and then try again if the problem recurs.

Counter Measures begin once the root cause(s) has been identified.

Step 1. – Root Cause

On the PDCA form, list the Root Causes from your Fishbone 5-Why Analysis. Every root cause must have at least one counter measure. However, you may have multiple counter measures for any one root cause.

Step 2. – Action

Explain the action to be taken to eliminate the root cause using a coherent sentence. It must be tangible , specific, and directly address the root cause.

The action must be clear, with a beginning date and an ending date. The following is a few actions with a clear beginning and finish: 

  • Create a Hot Spot Sheet for always covering the counter tops with a protective wrap  
  • Update SWIS # CON.02.005.08 “Install Wall Block” to include that all measurements are pulled and checked against print
  • Publish a Standard in the Construction Manual that all Critical Check Inspection Sheets are uploaded into Build Pro
  • Update the Closing Request Form to include Realtor Commission
  • Schedule a one-on-one Safety Meeting with each framing crew to go over fall protection standards

Counter Measures cannot be open ended, or non specific. The following actions do not have a specific end in mind, or even a clear purpose: 

  • Look into why sales are slumping 
  • Work with the Title Company to help them improve
  • Talk to framers
  • Update the Construction Manual 

Step 3. – Action Words

Start the Counter Measure sentence with a verb or action word. The following are some examples of action words that describe a solid counter measure:

  • Publish
  • Set-up
  • Establish
  • Build
  • Schedule
  • Standardize
  • Reward
  • Schedule
  • Write
  • Update
  • Revise
  • Replace
  • Correct

The following words should not be used to describe your counter measure. Most of these words will lead you to actions in data collection and analysis — not a counter measure to eliminate a root cause.

  • Compare
  • Investigate
  • Work with
  • Work on
  • Look into
  • Examine
  • Observe
  • Pay Attention to
  • Talk to
  • Discuss
  • Wait
  • Try  

Step 4. – Who

One individual from the PDCA group is the Responsible Who. The Responsible Who ensures the counter measure is implemented by the target date, and will later follow-up to ensure that the counter measure is producing the expected results. This doesn’t mean the Responsible Who must do the action, but simply oversees that the action is completed.

The Responsible Who must be a member of the PDCA Group; it cannot be someone outside the group. If the work is to be completed by another individual (such as a computer programming issue) you can write in the counter measure who will be conducting the work. “Update software; Samantha to write new programming code” or “Revise language in System Standard 12.4; Scott to update verbiage online.”

The Responsible Who cannot be a position title. Even if a new standard will be performed by every Construction Professional in every community, the act of updating the standard or updating the SWIS will still be overseen by one member of the PDCA Group.

The Responsible Who must be a single (1) individual. Sue and Bob may work on and implement the counter measure together, but either Sue is ultimately responsible for it, or Bob is. Not both. There’s an old saying, “A dog with two masters is either really fat or really skinny.”  

Step 5. – Start Date

A counter measure must begin on a specific date. This is generally the date the Responsible Who will begin organizing the action. This is often the day the counter measure is assigned, but can take place in the future if work will not begin until other circumstances are met or, possibly, until another counter measure is implemented.

Step 6. – Target Date

A counter measure must have a set Target Date to be completed. This may be the date the counter measure will be standardized across all building companies. Or this may be the date the Responsible Who wants to follow-up to ensure an action is working. Either way, it is a date set in the future when the counter measure is expected to be implemented. The Target Date must be set when the begin date is decided.

The Target Date can (and probably will) change during the Check and Adjust phase of the PDCA.

Step 7. – Finish Date

The Finished date on a counter measure is follow-up: it means the counter measure has been completed, implemented or standardized as of this date. This date does not have to match the Target Date. The counter measure may be implemented sooner than the expected Target Date, or it make take longer than originally expected.

Step 8. Temporary Counter Measure

A Temporary Counter Measure is “immediate containment.” This is an action or series of actions that the PDCA group will take to temporarily remedy the problem. This action may have no connection to the root causes.

A Temporary Counter Measure may be written and implemented before you even begin the problem statement.

© March 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo


  1. […] Counter Measures: Bringing balance to the process by JC Gatlin – “A Temporary Counter Measure is ‘immediate containment.’ This is an action or series of actions that the PDCA group will take to temporarily remedy the problem. This action may have no connection to the root causes.” […]

  2. […] Counter Measures: Bringing balance to the process dal blog Lean Homebuilding di J. C. Gatlin: Come si fa a definire e implementare le contromisure per le cause all’origine dei problemi (traduzione automatica) […]

  3. This is a great article and really helps spell out how to get counter-measures in place!

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