With our years of experience, we have gyrated through several visual metric communication devices. All of them serve one purpose in communicating, but only one metric at one time. It could be a number where last tripped day is annotated, it could be a visual metric where a different color represents the record for that particular day. This is usually represented by using a letter “S” , a square or even a circle. In any instance, this results in a very “Busy” looking display. Additionally, every business customizes this visual metric. There is no standard and there is always a learning curve. Just the other day I was in a shop where it took me a good 10 minutes to understand how the shop was performing. I was shocked to later find another board by the employee break area that told the other half of the story. Point being, everyone does it differently, and that’s OK. There is a reason that these systems have been in place for quite a few decades now.
We believe that in using the Heinrich triangles, you are telling a story to the organization. All one has to do is understand the theory of operation in this pyramid and an expectation should be set in data consumption. There are many other sources that refute the legitimacy of these pyramids and the exact numbers associated with this theory. However all agree the following fundamental principle is correct. As you discuss these issues that are entered, a statistical orientation will begin to show itself. Based on the goals/severities that your organization has set, you will see a distribution represented on the triangle. This first time data gathering will tell you if you are on the right track and if your goals/severities are set at the appropriate level.
Even in setting up your pyramids and comparing the small sampling to the goals/severities that you have set, you have already used that tool to gauge your organization. Hopefully, all is running smoothly and you have the standard model distribution….however if you are seeing that the criteria you have set for the level 1 and level 2 issues are consistently being violated, then you may want to consider taking a step back. You should be able to see if you have a problem in delivering first time pass though, inherent quality issues…are you fighting fires or planning ahead? By applying the Heinrich safety triangle to other parts of your business (Quality, Delivery, Cost) you now have created a multidimensional conversation.
Now that the triangles are (theoretically)set up and running properly, they are telling you a multitude of details across several categories…all without spending 30 seconds looking at the data. Granted the time scale is a key component to this functionality, but the pyramids are showing you…per unit time…the severity of incidents occurring (regardless of the severity details), and how many at each level…all across Safety, Quality, Delivery, People and Cost.
We’ve seen it all, tachometers, colored letters, colored squares, colored circles, just numbers…you name it. None had the multi usage that the Heinrich triangles had. Additionally, driving one level deeper now makes sense and exposes generally where you are having issues within the organization. Drive one layer deeper, you are now in the details of the organization. In a typical CI Whiteboard experience, the data goes from general to specific in a heartbeat, leaving most management and support roles rather lost in the whole process.
When we ask shop supervisors (or management) what the biggest problems facing the shop, the vast majority of the time is the item that is the most severe and most recent. This is subjectivity at it’s finest. In this all too common instance, the supervisor/manager does not really know where the problems are without tracking and categorizing their issues appropriately. The’re out there fighting fires and remembering the most recent emotional event. This of course justifies the need for Lean Visual Metrics but also speaks to the need for a standardized approach, which is exactly what Heinrich gives us.