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Posts Tagged ‘values’

Measure or Metric? Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other?

Posted by Diane Kulisek on December 7, 2009

Here is another LinkedIn ‘Best Answer’.  Anshuman Tiwari, a Change Management and Business Excellence Professional within the Information and Technology Services industry and  an active member of the American Society for Quality in India, asked the following LinkedIn Question:

“How would you differentiate between Measure and Metric?  Measure and Metric are often used terms in Balanced Scorecard and the Baldrige framework. How would you explain the difference. Do you have any examples?”

Below is the answer I posted, which Anshuman rated as the ‘Best’ answer of six provided by LinkedIn Members:

“The only distinction that I think might be able to be made does not appear to be available in any of the literature I’ve checked. I’m basing this only upon my personal experience.

I would have to say that a measure is usually performed to gather information for later analysis or to assess conformance with a known specification.

Meanwhile, I would say that a metric is a collection of measurements performed consecutively over a period of time (or in relation to some other progressive scale) that reflects ongoing performance toward attainment of a desired goal or ultimate outcome. Some measures, however, may also appear in analysis of priority or importance with regard to attainment of a goal or may influence allocation of resources for ultimate attainment of a goal (such as might be the case for cumulative Pareto analysis or 80-20 Rule determinations).

In a nutshell, then, I would have to say that a measure tends to be tactical and a metric tends to be strategic.

It certainly should be defined somewhere, officially.”

This was not part of my LinkedIn Answer, but below are the Google-derived definitions of ‘measure’:

Related phrases:   performance measure   unit of measure   made to measure   common measure   tape measure   oregon ballot measure 7   measure for measure   beyond measure   linear measure   how to measure a planet

Definitions of measure on the Web:

  • any maneuver made as part of progress toward a goal; “the situation called for strong measures”; “the police took steps to reduce crime”
  • how much there is or how many there are of something that you can quantify
  • bill: a statute in draft before it becomes law; “they held a public hearing on the bill”
  • measurement: the act or process of assigning numbers to phenomena according to a rule; “the measurements were carefully done”; “his mental measurings proved remarkably accurate”
  • standard: a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated; “the schools comply with federal standards”; “they set the measure for all subsequent work”
  • determine the measurements of something or somebody, take measurements of; “Measure the length of the wall”
  • meter: (prosody) the accent in a metrical foot of verse
  • quantify: express as a number or measure or quantity; “Can you quantify your results?”
  • musical notation for a repeating pattern of musical beats; “the orchestra omitted the last twelve bars of the song”
  • have certain dimensions; “This table surfaces measures 20inches by 36 inches”
  • measuring stick: measuring instrument having a sequence of marks at regular intervals; used as a reference in making measurements
  • evaluate or estimate the nature, quality, ability, extent, or significance of; “I will have the family jewels appraised by a professional”; “access all the factors when taking a risk”
  • a container of some standard capacity that is used to obtain fixed amounts of a substance
  • Measure is the second album from Matt Pond PA, released in 2000.
  • A jigger or measure is a bartending tool used to measure liquor, which is typically then poured into a cocktail shaker. It is named for the unit of liquid it typically measures, a 1.5 fluid ounce (~44 ml) jigger or shot. …

If we narrow our search for a definition to ‘performance measure’, we’ll find that ‘measure’ and ‘metric’ are terms used interchangeably.  There are subsearches provided for strategic performance measures and for tactical performance measures, however.  Here are the Google-based ‘performance measure’ definitions:

Related phrases:   technical performance measure   strategic performance measure   tactical performance measure   performance measure/indicator

Definitions of performance measure on the Web:

So, for ‘tactical performance measure’ we have the following Google-based definition:

A yardstick or standard used to measure progress toward achieving a tactical objective; a measure of how well we are doing; an output measure or a …

And, for ‘strategic performance measure’ we have this:

A yardstick or standard used to measure progress toward achieving a strategic objective. a measure of how well we are doing; an outcome measure.

Hmmm….. those look…. suspiciously… like the exact same definition.  Let’s see what the Google-based definitions are for ‘metric’:

Related phrases:   metric ton   metric system   metric space   metric structure   metric conversions   metric units   metric tonne   routing metric   euclidean metric

Definitions of metric on the Web:

  • metric function: a function of a topological space that gives, for any two points in the space, a value equal to the distance between them
  • metric unit: a decimal unit of measurement of the metric system (based on meters and kilograms and seconds); “convert all the measurements to metric units”; “it is easier to work in metric”
  • system of measurement: a system of related measures that facilitates the quantification of some particular characteristic
  • measured: the rhythmic arrangement of syllables
  • Metric is a Canadian New Wave/indie rock band. Originally formed in 1998 in New York City, they are currently based in Toronto, Ontario, Montreal …
  • In differential geometry, the notion of a metric tensor can be extended to an arbitrary vector bundle. …
  • In general relativity, the metric tensor (or simply, the metric) is the fundamental object of study. It may loosely be thought of as a generalization of the gravitational field familiar from Newtonian gravitation. …
  • A metric is a standard unit of measure, such as meter or mile for length, or gram or ton for weight, or more generally, part of a system of parameters, or systems of measurement, or a set of ways of quantitatively and periodically measuring, assessing, controlling or selecting a person, process …
  • A measure for something; a means of deriving a quantitative measurement or approximation for otherwise qualitative phenomena (esp. …
  • metrics – prosody: the study of poetic meter and the art of versification
  • Metrics is a property of a route in computer networking, consisting of any value used by routing algorithms to determine whether one route should perform better than another (the route with the lowest metric is the preferred route). …
  • Measurable element of a service, process or function. The real value of metrics is seen in their change over time. Reliance on a single metric is not advised, especially if it has the potential to affect User behaviour in an undesirable way.
  • A standard of measurement. Software metrics are the statistics describing the structure or content of a program. A metric should be a real objective measurement of something such as number of bugs per lines of code.
  • A general term describing a measurable value available from a particular system or service (see also Counters). The metrics that are available depend on the monitor type and configuration of the system. …
  • A standard for measurement.

Defining the word ‘metric’ seems to use the term ‘measure’, a lot.  I dunno.  What do YOU think the differences are between a metric and a measure?

While you’re pondering that, feel free to download copies of my presentation handout about Quality Metrics and Dashboards from the CAPAtrak Website or enjoy the free downloadable Simple Dashboard and Balanced Scorecard Templates.

Posted in Blogroll, Philosophy and Metaphysics, Quality-Related LinkedIn Answers, Social Commentary, Tools and Methods, Science and Technology, Websites | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Independence and Unity – Balance as Quality

Posted by Diane Kulisek on July 4, 2007

us-flagToday is our Independence Day holiday in the United States, it seems appropriate to call to the attention of all people throughout the world that the concepts America holds most dear are often in contradiction with one another… intentionally. Take the name of this holiday and the name of this country, for instance. How can people be united and independent, simultaneously? The answer to that question is perhaps fundamental to the joy of life and pursuit of happiness… and therefore… an element of that ever elusive “quality” of life. The answer is… BALANCE.

As an amateur metaphysician, dabbler in the esoteric, ponderer of existentialism, as well as a systems thinker (as most quality leaders tend to be), I’m pleased to say that both chaos and order appear to have essential merit in the universe. As I consider the usual state of my office while I am engaged in the pursuit of any complex project, the observation that chaos has value is especially relevant. After the project is done, order will be restored (sort of) and with it will linger my personal satisfaction about having mastered the elements of chaos and prevailed with order, yet again.

Why would such opposite concepts have seemingly equal value, though? Why would independence and unity both have value, despite their contradictory implications? How could chaos and order be equally meritorious states of being? Well, discussions about this fill bookshelves in far greater libraries than mine shall ever be. For now, I’m just going to focus on the importance of balance as an essential element of quality.

When I was new to the quality profession, I thought that one of it’s most compelling attractions was the ease with which one could discern good from bad. It was black and white. The specification was literally written in black and white on some authoritative document and there were acceptance criteria and rejection criteria and if something was good it was clear. If something was bad it was also clear. How convenient. How honest. How straight forward. But ultimately…. how MISLEADING.

Goodness or badness are rarely immediately clear distinctions… as anybody with a mischievous child or pet learns pretty quickly. There is a bit of good and bad in each and every thing depending entirely, of course, upon beholders’ perspectives. This is a great rationale for providing your child with a pet early in life. Let them learn about this up close and personal!

At the beginning of my quality career, back when I was still young enough to mistakenly think that the more I learned the more I would know, I suddenly stumbled upon the concept that opposites might actually be part of the same continuum. I bit my lip and came to terms with the likelihood that learning something new meant understanding there were many more things I didn’t know.

You see, there are all kinds of shades of gray between black and white…. but the fact was that black and white were at opposite ends of a single linear scale of graduated darkness and lightness. Then, I realized that I could flip the scale around and have the darkness graduating to light or the lightness graduating to dark. Join opposing ends… and the linear scale had now become circular. But wait. There’s MORE.

With a bit more pondering, I realized that every point along the black/white continuum also had graduated levels of radiance associated with it. Now, I could envision this continuum as a fractal plane… or…. even as a holographic sphere…. and it started to look like…. <gasp>….. hadn’t I seen that symbol somewhere before? Good grief! It was a yin-yang symbol…. in 3-D! I had finally become one with the surfing community of Southern California. EGADS!

I promptly went out and bought “The Tao of Physics” (Fritjof Capra, 1975, Shambhala Publications, Berkley, California). Imagine my surprise upon learning that the renowned, Nobel prize-winning physicist, Niels Bohr, had also incorporated the yin-yang symbol into the Bohr family coat of arms when knighted in 1947 and adopted, as his motto: Contraria sunt complementa (opposites are complementary). Come to think of it, this wasn’t a new concept. Newton came up with something like it in 1687, namely, Newton’s Third Law: “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

I started to notice opposites everywhere… as pairs, not as distinctions. And there were gradients between the pairs. And there were orders of magnitude for the opposing features of each pair. Goodness and badness were no longer distinct. In fact, if one pursued goodness to an extreme, it could transition to badness… and visa versa (too much of anything is a bad thing). If love and passion are marked by the appearance of obsession, for instance, when somebody is obsessed enough with their hatred toward another… it can look an awful lot like… love. If one loves another to the point of obsession, however, especially if it is unreciprocated, the obsession can turn into all sorts of ugliness: stalking, abduction, murder… and closely resembles hatred. On the other hand, if hatred is pushed to it’s lowest extreme, malicious neglect, it can mimic the lowest boundary of love, bare tolerance, and perhaps the destructive power of indifference would be at the imaginary boundary between the two, if such a boundary existed. No wonder the phrase “love/hate relationship” has become so common.

When I began to understand the statistics behind quality control and the uncertainty associated with population distributions relative to sample distributions, confidence levels and operating characteristic curves, I could not help but realize that I was encountering still more application of balance as a quality factor. What had seemed like a firm scientific and mathematical basis for acceptability I now understood to be based upon assumptions about acceptable levels of risk. Wait a minute. Doesn’t a sine curve point of inflection look an awful lot like….. oh NO…. it DOES…. it’s a yin yang symbol!

Then I learned of the Taguchi loss function, which defines variation (or perhaps more appropriately: “deviation”) from a specific desired outcome as a “loss to society”… and shuns the notion of “goal-posting” (setting acceptability limits within which everything is either suddenly “good” and outside of which everything is suddenly “bad”, a.k.a. tolerance limits). This is when I realized that quality practitioners could no longer enjoy the comfort of a “black and white”, “good and bad”, world. Quality practitioners must strive for balance as much as for any other outcome.

How much loss is society willing or able to endure in order for anything to have less quality? How much is society willing to suffer or survive in order for our planet to have less ecological balance? Consider the factors important to consider when answering questions of this nature. The quality practitioner’s life had just shifted from the purely mathematical and scientific, to the sociological and philosophical with only a foundation in math and science. Chaos rules. Drat.

Well, if it’s any consolation, despite my tailspin off into quality engineer-ese, the founding fathers of the United States of America understood and communicated the need for balance in much more common terms. They diligently defined quality and balance for this country in our Declaration of Independence, our U.S. Constitution, and, lastly, in our Bill of Rights and Amendments. These governing documents consistently recognized and balanced the need to protect the rights and independence of the individual against the need for and strength of unity in every possible way. The fruit of their labors has endured for over 210 years and, in that time, has made the United States one of the most desirable places to live in the world. I see that as one of the loudest, clearest, most basic statements about the importance of quality, with balance as an element of quality, and the indisputable value of quality in the world today.

Happy 4th of July!

Posted in Day-to-Day Observations, Philosophy and Metaphysics, Social Commentary | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »