How clean is my table?

The last post was about there being “no true value” of a measure, unless you define what you mean to measure, and that the way to know what you are supposed to be measuring is to define measure by purpose.

The example was of a table, and how whether it is “clean” or not depends on its purpose. A surgical table will require a different level of cleanliness than a dining room table. Purpose defines measure.

If you don’t have a clear purpose to understand the words in a measure, then they can mean anything. How do you know what meaning to use? So, is the table clean?


right now
the last time i looked at it
the last time i cleaned it
the time the schedule said it should be cleaned
when it is to be needed, which could be tomorrow or an unknown point in the future


the table the manager was thinking about
the table staff were thinking about
the table the customer was thinking about


the table top
the top and sides
the top, sides & legs
the top, side, legs and underneath the top


clear of objects
clean to the naked eye of stains and dirt
clean of objects and dust
clean to an antiseptic level

With clarity of purpose comes clarity of measures, when you know what the table is for then you know how to tell if it is clean or not. A human being is not that daft that they cannot use their judgement when they have absolute clarity about their customer and the problem they are helping them with.

I’ve worked in a sector where there were large handbooks issued to define measures, that reached its nadir with 67 pages of guidance issued about one measure. I think these were needed as these measures were disconnected from purpose. Each measure became a piece of work in itself, as well as the actual work the measure purported to relate to, the measure itself generated it’s own industry of performance management staff, communities of practice even. All caused by arbitrary measures not based in knowledge but arrived at through consensus.

No need for massive handbooks attempting to provide clarity of a measure when there is clarity of purpose.

This entry was posted in clarity of purpose, deming, purpose, systems thinking, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How clean is my table?

  1. Brilliant. Really nicely done. Loved this post.


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