Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Objectives, Targets and Bullseyes

...And the comments just keep rolling in - I feel so loved!

Someone has asked what the difference between an objective and target is. A lot of people think there isn't any difference, but there is, and it is important to understand it because objectives and targets are a powerful tool for demonstrating continual improvement.

Both of these terms are specifically defined in the standard in Section 3 (Terms and Definitions) 3.9 and 3.11, which means they don't want you to use the dictionary version. Although the standard writers probably thought they made it crystal clear, you are not alone in asking: "What the #$!@" do they mean?"

A common explanation is that an objective is an overall goal or "umbrella" description of a goal whereas the target is more specific and must be met as part of the larger goal.

...zzzhnh Wha...?? Whoa - I just fell asleep typing that!!!

This reminds me of something mildly hilarious: When asked why the ISO 14001 standard wasn't written more clearly, my instructor answered that it was difficult even for college undergraduates to understand because it was written very elegantly to the "17th-grade level." Folks, I can't make up stuff this ridiculous.

Although mere baccalaureates (I mean, 16th graders) cannot reasonably be expected to attain this lofty reading comprehension level, the concept of objectives and targets could easily be explained to a tipsy barfly with a beer in one hand and a crooked plastic dart in the other.

Think of the type of dart game (301, cricket) as the "objective," and the various numbers on the dartboard, including the bullseye, as the "targets." In the game, hitting individual targets measures progress toward reaching the overall goal: winning. Without both the objective and the targets defined, you might as well throw darts at anything or anyone, which I think we can all agree would not clearly demonstrate continual improvement, even if they were thrown by someone with a PhD.

The standard requires
programs be defined to achieve objectives and targets. So I'll take this example one step further (too far?) and define a "program": the barfly (responsibility) must use the darts (means) to finish the game before he passes out (timeframe).

And just because I can, I'm going to go over the proverbial cliff with this example: In 4.5.1, the standard requires calibrated/verified equipment to monitor objectives and targets. This is because the data must be not only accurate, but consistent, reliable and repeatable. So, to return to the example: if the "equipment" is a drunk person using worn out bar darts, I wouldn't bet on a winning streak. In other words, "GIGO" applies.

There are lots of myths about how objectives must be set and what they must include. For more information on objectives and targets, see the following COIs: (click on the link under "Faves," or if you don't know what COIs are, click here)





Maaaa! Do I Have To?

Some bold soul has asked one of the most common questions out there: "Is it mandatory to have one or more significant aspects to be registered?" Huzzah!!! My first comment. I'm so excited...

The essential answer is:

Now, you may feel a little sheepish telling someone, "Well, this blogger said to do it..." Baaah humbug! Fortunately, you don't have to depend on an opinion-based blog to get the answer because the standard writers (TC 207) and the registrar oversight body (ANAB) have kindly provided the "official" answer to this question. To quote Mr. Burns: "Eh-eh-xcellent!"

There are actually 2 different places to find the answer, although only one really applies if you are seeking registration.

1. Our TC 207 friends answered almost the exact same question in COI 04-03.A1.
Unfortunately, their publishing skills do not appear to extend much beyond stone carving because you cannot directly link to this question online, but you can access the COI document that contains it here, or by clicking on the link provided under "Faves." Hint: it's in the 2004 version.

For more information on TC 207 COIs see the following blogs: "How I learned to Stop Worrying..." and "The ABCs of COIs"

2. TC 207 gets you most of the way there, but those competing for "registration gold" must play by the rules - in this case, ANAB's Accreditation Rules. This group of sages has at least a minimal grasp of "that new-fangled internet thingy," and you can directly access Accreditation Rule #13 online.

For that ANAB history buff out there (you know who you are), AR 13 supersedes Advisory 20. More importantly, it incorporates the TC 207 COI mentioned above and adds some extra ANAB icing, which spectacularly fails to make this topic any less dry. So, grab something to wash this down (it should be at least 80 proof), and I'll give you the "CliffsNotes" version - there is no movie version (thank God!!)

AR 13 essentially says: If you don't have any significant aspects, you won't have a system that can be registered because you WON'T have to do..., well, pretty much anything and everything that would show an auditor you have a system in place. That's because key elements all tie back to SIGNIFICANT aspects; heavy-hitters like: objectives and targets, training, communication, operational control and monitoring and measurement. You don't need to do this stuff for INsignificant aspects, so without any significant aspects, you basically don't have a reason for a system.

You just snorted your drink through your nose, didn't you? I can hear the choking and spluttering from here. In the immortal words of George Carlin: "Calm down, have some dip." OK, so you've changed your shirt, refreshed your drink, and taken several deep breaths. You are dry, relaxed, and best of all, armed with new (albeit painful) knowledge: You must have at least one (1) significant aspect to get registered. Whew!

But this begs a second question (so take a big steadying gulp and swallow it before reading on):

Why put a whole EMS program in place around 1 or 2 aspects? And even if you still see value in a severely limited scope, why register such a system? It's like throwing a big party and not inviting anyone. OK, registration is nothing at all like a party, except for possibly the excessive drinking, hangovers, and morning-after regrets.

For more information about this endlessly fascinating topic, see "Covering Your Aspects" - coming soon.