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The Countermeasure Ladder


Let me tell you a story about what happened to me when I was working with my customer one day. They were lacking a system for safety of making sure that they knew how many people were on site if something happened. So, we discussed this a little bit back and forth, and I threw out an idea to the team and said, “Why don’t we just put up whiteboards by the door, some different entrances where people come in, and we have the names there and you can put a magnet on if you’re in or out. Something simple like that, so we have something, at least,” and one of the guys said, “That will never work because we tried it already.” So, I said, “What do you mean don’t work? “Yeah,” he said, “That didn’t work.” So, what didn’t work? Whiteboards fall down or couldn’t people read their names or what? What didn’t work? And you can hear, I was slightly sarcastic at the moment.

So, we had a discussion and I said to them, “Remember that your idea can be good, but the way you implement the idea wasn’t thought through,” and there’s something called the six steps of the countermeasures, or the Countermeasure ladder. Sometimes what we do is we have an idea and we just tell people about it and hoping they will get it and then if they don’t, we blame the idea or we blame the people. That is not even a countermeasure to just tell people. So the lowest level of countermeasure is to tell them and train them and training ensures that they actually know what to do after so you have some way of qualifying that the training was good enough.

You can also add another level, which is auditing. You can audit, and make sure things are working like it should. You can add a visual system in place as well as the third level to make sure that you can easily see if things are normal or abnormal. You can create a fool safe system or poka-yoke, so it’s hard to make a mistake. You could also automate it. So, everything happens by automation. Then it’s easier for people to not make mistakes, obviously. Or, you can also eliminate it totally.

So, remember, it’s not always the idea that wouldn’t work. If you are a person on the receiving end of the implementation you might have been blamed for the failure. It’s common to point fingers and find somebody to blame. It’s often done out of frustration. It might be possible to discuss how the implementation is done to give an alternative reason for it!? It might have been the way you implemented it, and you need to think that through to ensure sustainability. Do you recognize this? Have you ever seen this happen that you had a good idea but it wasn’t implemented correct and therefore it fell apart?

Please comment below. Let me know more about that because I love to discuss these things with you and learn more from you guys. So yes, comment. Let me know your thoughts and if you want to talk more about the countermeasure ladder and maybe other situations and issues in implementing good ideas, send me an email.

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