Do you keep coming across that one word or phrase that, whenever you hear it misused or mispronounced, makes you shake your head or roll your eyes because it’s just plain wrong?

Over the past few years, I’ve been miffed by the seemingly sudden misuse of the word “versus” (or vs.) by the young kids in the school district where I live. The kids would say, “Yeah, I think next week we are versing that team in the yellow.” I guess I can see how they would make it up – they see schedules printed with “Team A vs. Team B” so I suppose the natural thing is for them to extrapolate the usage to “we are versing them.” The part that peaks my curiosity, though, is how did this misusage of the word start and why now? Are kids today more advanced than we were? Sadly, the answer to that is probably yes… but I digress.

In all my years as a practitioner, trainer, facilitator, and consultant, the most frequently misused description I come across in our field is hearing the FMEA described as a “document.” Literally, FMEA is short for Failure Mode(s) and Effects Analysis. The key is in that last word, analysis.  Nowhere does it say “document.” Yet, how often do we hear that we have to pull out the FMEA “document” or that the FMEA is a “living document!”?

The problem with this error is that it furthers the misconception that the FMEA is a document summary of the product or process, “telling us” what’s wrong and how to fix it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The FMEA is an analysis of our products/processes; the actual steps we take when performing the analysis is where the learning and discovery take place. It is during the analysis, the discussions, the deep thinking, where we identify gaps in failure mode coverage and where we make the plans to minimize or mitigate those failures.

Do we call Finite Element Analysis (FEA) a document? How about when performing a statistical analysis? Do we refer to these as documents? No. First, because they simply aren’t documents and, second, because it would water down the fact that these are analyses that take real engineering skill and knowledge to perform. For every one of these examples, we summarize the analysis and report on the findings. The analysis itself is not a document. The summary report is the document. The FMEA is an analysis.

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