Fish Bones, Cause and Effect

The Ishikawa Diagram has been an old standby in Quality Management and other applications of structured problem solving for quite awhile.  You may know this technique by another name: the fishbone diagram, the cause and effect diagram, 6M’s, etc.

Let’s use a children’s story, the Pied Piper of Hamlin, to illustrate the use of this technique.  As the story goes, the good people of Hamlin were plagued with rats.  The rats were eating all the grain and food in town.  The angry people went to the Mayor, insisting that the Mayor do something about this horrible problem.  The Mayor had read the Global Quality Blog and remembered a problem solving technique, the Fishbone diagram.  The Mayor drew a horizontal line, like this:


The Mayor used the “Measurement, Materials, Methods, Manpower, Machines, and Mother Nature” categories (6M’s).  The Mayor also used’s reference page for the Cause and Effect diagram.


Luckily, the Mayor wasn’t left to do this alone.  The Townspeople were more than glad to help out.  They were tired of chasing rats out of their houses and finding rats in the grain bins.  So, the Mayor asked the Townspeople- “How many rats have you seen?”

The Townspeople answered, “Lots and lots of rats!”

The Mayor, replied- “Ok, more than 10?”

“Yes, hundreds of thousands of rats!”, exclaimed the Townspeople.

The Mayor added this to “Measurement” on the fishbone diagram.

The Townspeople and Mayor continued adding ideas for why there may be rats in Hamlin.  “There seem to be more rats in winter than in summer, but I never see a rat in town before harvest time.” “I wonder why there’d be more rats in winter?”

“I see them in the fields in summer and they’re not much trouble. Günter (my hound) scares them off pretty easily.”

“I’ve seen them run across the ropes to the pier from the river boats!”

“I saw one chew right through the floor boards of the grain silo.”

And on it went.  They added to each category of the fishbone diagram, and it looked like this:


“If the rats come for the grain, can’t we just get rid of the grain?”

The Miller is not too happy about this, “If farmers don’t bring grain to Hamlin, I won’t be able to make flour”.

“What! No flour?” said the Baker.  “If there isn’t any flour, then there’ll be no bread!”

“No bread! Then we’ll be as hungry as the rats!” said the Townspeople.

“Hold on, now” said the Mayor, “Let’s look at our drawing.”

They all look at the drawing and start talking about what may be bringing rats to Hamlin.  They circle the most important causes.


“Rats are always on the ships and barges, but the ships carry the most grain.”

“Well, there were holes in most of the grain sacks.  I saw a bunch of spilled grain on the ground.”

“Ok, if we all mend the sacks and baskets then maybe there won’t be spilled grain on the ground.”

And that’s what they did.  They also fixed the floor boards in the grain silos.

The End

Learn More:

-What may have really happened in Hamlin-

-Rat plagues of the Middle Ages-

-Support Wikipedia-

The Karvonen Formula

The Karvonen Formula is based on the fact that exercise training load can be expressed as a percentage of the heart rate reserve- the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.

The Polar website has a detailed definition of the Karvonen Formula: Heart Rate Reserve Calculation

I’ve found that the Karvonen Formula combined with the idea of Heart Rate Zones, determined by using the Karvonen Formula, are an effective way to manage exercise intensity.

Here’s a spreadsheet that you can download and modify for your own use: HR Zone Training Spreadsheet

If you have a heart rate monitor, or take your pulse, you can determine your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate.  Alternatively, you can use these averages from based upon your age:  Target Heart Rates

These training concepts are detailed in Training for the New Alpinism.  Different sports require different types of exercise.  Endurance sports emphasize “lower” heart rates (but still above your resting heart rate) and sports emphasizing strength or short, fast bursts of speed emphasize “higher” heart rates (a.k.a. high intensity).  In addition to training for your desired sport, you need to identify your Achilles heel.

I enjoy hiking, scrambling, and skiing in the mountains but I spend my week at a sedentary desk job.  So, perhaps not surprisingly, I need to train for endurance with long easy distance (LED).

Quality Concepts – Plan, Do, Study, Act (The Shewhart Cycle)

  1. Plan:
    1. Identify your Goal
    2. Find a performance metric or key performance indicator
  2. Do: Measure the performance metric
  3. Study: Compare to Goal
  4. Act: Identify areas for improvement & repeat

Free spreadsheet!

Support Wikipedia!

Next blog: The Foundation & 5 Pillars

Last blog: Fitness First



Fitness First

The winter wonderland that is the Colorado Rockies in January is off to a slow start this year- the warm weather keeps melting the snow! This unusual weather pattern has made it easier to spend time outside.  I’m on week #7 of my base fitness training- emphasizing aerobic exercise.

The training log follows some recommendations from “Training for the New Alpinism” written by Steve House and Scott Johnston, Published by Patagonia Books.  The book is a wealth of information, correcting a lot of misinformation and hype that’s pretty common in fitness advertising.

I’ve used a training log before, even one based on “Training for the New Alpinism” before, but it seems to be more effective now.  You may wonder, “What’s the difference?” and “I thought this was a blog about Quality?”

I’ll answer the first question first, since the differences are easier to explain.  Some new elements in this training plan are: tracking # hours slept and grading the workout quality (A, B, C, etc.)  I’m tracking the number of days per week I’ve done significant activity (for example, jogging, hiking, or skiing).  While I knew that the number of hours slept would influence workout quality, I didn’t really believe it until I started to see the correlation between # hours slept and the workout grade.  Sleeping 7-8 hours a night is consistently correlated with workout grades A & B.  Sleeping less than 7 hours a night is consistently correlated with skipped workout days.  For right now, I’ll leave this as an observation.  Once I have 3 months of data, I’ll see if this is a statistically significant correlation or not.

The exercise training log is similar to a check sheet, a tally sheet or a run log kept in manufacturing.  The columns are days, the rows weeks.  Each day, I have a plan to exercise or to rest.  The goal is to consistently workout 5-6 days per week.  At week #7, I’m working out 4 days a week (on average).  The workout grade lets me judge whether to increase the training load or not.  Consistent workout grades of B or better indicate that the training load is appropriate for my current fitness level.

At this point, I can address the second question- “I thought this was a blog about Quality?”  It is a blog about Quality.  The exercise training log embodies two key Quality Management principles- (1) What is measured gets improved and (2) Only complete activities that help you accomplish your goal.

Next Blog – The Karvonen Formula.


The DIY Dilemma

Disclaimer: I’ve ruined a few watches trying to change the battery.  Tiny, fragile pieces- if you bend the leaf spring or loose a screw you are S.O.L.  Polar Elektro & Polar USA, the manufacturer of the FT1 heart rate monitor, does not recommend changing the battery, for these reasons I’m sure.  For the brave of heart- march on!

The DIY Dilemma is: can I do it better / cheaper / faster than a professional?

My experience has been- sometimes.  Here’s an example.  I’ve had the  Polar FT1 heart rate monitor for a few years.  I’ve replaced the chest strap, 6 months later I started getting the low battery indicator on the watch and it gave up the ghost a few months after that.

I looked into getting the battery changed by a Polar Service Center- the price is pretty reasonable at $19.99.  The problem was, I didn’t want to ship the watch to a regional service center.  I was pretty surprised to find out that in one of the outdoor recreation meccas in the U.S.A. – namely Boulder, Colorado – that we don’t have a service center.  The service centers are predominantly located on the West Coast, in the Great Lakes Region, and on the East Coast.

Not wanting to ship the watch to a service center, wait for it to be repaired and then returned, I decided to tackle it myself.

Problem #1- How to remove the back of the watch? It turns out that the watch back is held in place by very small, specialized screws requiring a fairly uncommon type of screw driver to remove.

Solution #1- A quick search on Amazon and I located a set of tools for changing smartphone screens and batteries.  I’m an Amazon Prime member, so there were no shipping costs.  The tool set was $9.88.

Problem #2 – Getting a replacement battery.

Solution #2 – The watch uses a coin type battery, so it was pretty easy to go to Walgreen’s and pick up a replacement.  I had to buy a pack of 2 batteries- Walgreen’s was sold out of the single packs.  Cost: $7.99.

Cost of tools & materials – $9.88 + $7.99 = $17.87

Did I achieve the DIY goals of better / cheaper / faster than a professional?

Did I do better? No extra pieces and the watch turned on. So, the same.

Did I do it cheaper? A little bit: $19.99 – $17.87 = $2.12

Did I do it faster? Yes! I ordered the tools on 12/21, they arrived 12/24, battery replaced on 12/25.  5 days – no shipping charges.

So, I enjoy the challenge of fixing things.  I saved some time, a hand full of change, and in 2 years I’ll be able to change the battery when it runs out of charge.

I do have the satisfaction of a job well done.

What’s your DIY story?


2017 Photo Challenge

I like this smartphone snapshot of the Loch. The Loch is a few miles from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The wind was whipping and created white tops in the water.

Photography and Quality are almost synonyms for me.  The best photographs help viewers imagine that they were there, that they experienced what was happening at the particular place and time that the photograph was taken.  This is accomplished through the intangible qualities of the image that the Photographer chooses to emphasize.

Hopefully, by looking at this photo, you can experience the cool, bright sun reflecting off of the dark blue-green waters of the Loch in early Fall 2017.

2017 Photo Challenge