Concepts I use every day: Containment vs Countermeasure

Jason Yip
Jun 13, 2021

Address both the symptoms and the causes

“Hold on, let’s take our time to understand the root causes of fires otherwise we’re just treating the symptoms.”

We want to address current symptoms BUT we also want to remember to explore and address underlying causes.

The Toyota/Lean community describes these activities as “containment” vs “countermeasures”.

I see it as acknowledging the importance of timing when responding to problems.

Contain the symptoms to buy time

“How about we put out the fire first?”

Before exploring “how did this happen?”, deal with what’s happening.

Determining “how did this happen?” and identify appropriate responses can require significant time. Containing the symptoms buys you that time.

Address underlying causes with countermeasures

Increase urban housing supply (Countermeasure) vs Put out the fire (Containment)

It’s not enough to contain the symptoms. We also want to understand the underlying mechanisms to identify more effective, longer-term countermeasures.



Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl