Countermeasures Mean the Absence of Pain

Improvement Insights Blog

Countermeasures Mean the Absence of Pain

How do you know when your countermeasures are working? Nothing bad happens. But it’s often difficult to notice unless you look back into past. We all have absence blindness – we can’t see what isn’t there.


“Hi I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma Demystified” and QI Macros [software].

“Now, I don’t know about you, but I spent the last year and a half wearing a mask, washing my hands and staying out of crowds. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t get COVID and my wife and I went to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone and went to Hawaii on vacation, but we didn’t catch COVID. Something else I noticed: I didn’t get a cold or any kind of intestinal virus or anything else for that matter. I can’t remember a year of my life where I didn’t catch a cold.

“Now that’s one of the things about Quality Improvement: once you start using countermeasures like a mask, you cannot notice the things that didn’t go wrong because it just works properly. I think that’s one of the problems with what we do; if you simplify, streamline and optimize everything, guess what? Nobody notices because everything runs smoothly and everybody can go home at night and everybody… doesn’t have to work weekends and long hours and overtime, right? Customers don’t whine and complain like they used to, right? It’s the absence of pain that lets you know that what you’re doing is working.

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week: Let’s use those countermeasures, and those countermeasures are going to smooth things out and you’ll know that they’re working because nothing bad happens. I’m not saying some people didn’t get COVID even if they were a mask or whatever, I’m just saying that using the countermeasures available to you, no matter whether it’s COVID or a production line or a hospital emergency room, it does not matter. If you start using those countermeasures consistently, guess what? You may not ever notice what you’ve prevented.

“Let’s go out and improve something this week.”