The Basics of Systems Analysis

The Basics of Systems Analysis

By Bob Sproull

Rules, Training, and Measures

When deciding if a systems analysis is necessary or not, the best place to start is with the rules, training, and measures (RTMs) being used within the system. Without a solid understanding of the RTMs that populate the system, it’s virtually impossible to determine what to change, what to change to, and how to cause the change to materialize.

The rules of the system are the policies and procedures actively in place and in use within the system. The rules can determine the guidelines for how a company chooses to operate internally while maintaining compliance with the laws and guidelines defined by federal, state, and local governments.  Typically, the top level of most companies create the rules, which then flow downward through the organization to the lowest level. Each organization will add specific details to the rules pertaining to their particular organization and it’s easy to understand how the complexity of rules can change from location to location, even within the same company.

The concept of training, in this context, is how an organization trains employees to follow its rules. This training is usually focused on step-by-step policies and procedures on how to accomplish the intended work. General training might include safety, ethics, and other individual training segments mandated and monitored by a human resources department. The more precise job training includes job-specific policies and procedures. In addition, there is external training, the training and knowledge that a person brings with them to a work environment based on experience (both personal and business) and any formal academic education.

The measures are the systemic metrics used to monitor the system and govern compliance with the rules and training. A company outlines these metrics in the policies and procedures, defining what to measure and how. Enforcing these measures is necessary in order to monitor and report on organizational activities.  It also assists in determining the correct data to collection to enable good decision making within an organization.

So, think for a moment. Consider a situation in which the rules are incorrect and misaligned. It follows that the training might also be incorrect and misaligned. If the rules and training are incorrect and misaligned, then perhaps the measures are also incorrect and misaligned. Maybe it is now easier to understand the “cause–effect–cause” relationship between these three categories of business operations, and to understand why a single cause can have many effects, and that some of the effects can be negative.


While it is apparent that any robust systems analysis needs to begin with the strict evaluation of the company’s RTMs, it is a necessary condition to align all of the organizational RTMs with the overall goal and objectives of the company. With the possibility of incorrect and misaligned RTMs, along with the lack of conformity and standardization on how to use them, is it any wonder that many companies, and the organizations within them, exist in a world of confusion created by the RTMs? Without  positive change, the negative cycles between system correction and system over-correction will repeat themselves in a perpetual manner.

Bob Sproull

About the author

Bob Sproull has helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum improve their operations for more than 40 years.

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