The problem with a stable process, it will soon fail?

I was talking with a friend this week about a problem with a company that we both know.  This manufacturing company has sustained a very capable and stable process for a number of years.  The process is well documented with good in-process metrics.  They even have strict rules on making changes to the equipment, which require qualification runs to ensure validity prior to an introduction into general use.

No problems for years, and then the quality fell off of the cliff.  Nearly 80% of the product from a long production campaign failed to meet requirements.  When it was investigated the following was found: Continue reading The problem with a stable process, it will soon fail?

Examples of Bad Statistics in the News

I am constantly dumfounded by the lack of good statistics that are used in news stories.

Just this week a foundation in the UK produced a news release that close to 30% of the worlds plants are facing extinction!   If this is true, one third of the species in my yard might die.

But as I read this article, the authors really have no data to base the claim.  They decided if the globe warms as much as they believe, that some fraction of the plants will go extinct in their biome.  Oh yes, it will happen over 20 to 50 years.

  1. If warming makes a plant extinct in area A, then it will probably be growing north of area A where that climate exists.  An article in the Wall Street Journal documents that fish and lobsters on the US east coast are moving north, from what they believe might be warming waters.
  2. The article indicated that over 20,000 new plants species were found in the last few years.  Who knows, they may find more than are going extict.
  3. Their projection is based on a worst case projection that has not been project actual world temperatures over the past 10 years, so maybe their cause will not occur.

OK, my rant on fake news that is meant to drive emotions and grant funding. Continue reading Examples of Bad Statistics in the News

Developing a new theory at work – Causation or Correlation

I am involved with statistical work to understand a process failure.  We know there was a process breakdown somewhere.  It is easy to recognize the artifact that was developed because of the problem.  But can the problem be fixed without understanding the generating cause.  Probably not.

Lean Six Sigma training and Root Cause Analysis provides great tools to understand how to narrow down a problem to a single step or a short period of time that something happened to create the problem.  OK, there is the easy part.  How do we remove the true causes?

The risk to a lightly trained improvement leader is to jump on the first “Cause like” factor that shows a correlation to the period that the problem occurred.  Take this moment to remember what your mentors told you… Continue reading Developing a new theory at work – Causation or Correlation

SQL: A skill all Lean Six Sigma Belts should learn

Most Lean Six Sigma projects end up working with data.  We usually start with the data in a format that it is currently being used within the business.

This data is adequate to recognize the scope of the problem, but it is not usually sufficient to complete an improvement project.  We need more data on the Xs (inputs) and other aspects of the business.

In my Black Belt and Master Black Belt (MBB) work, I have always have to fight to get all of the data I believe I need.  This may take going out to collect data manually, but it is more often about pulling more data from the corporate data warehouse (corporate database).

To get the data requires a Database administrator (DBA) to pull the data or I do it myself.  Doing it myself required me to learn SQL (structured query language).  I believe all Belts should take time to learn SQL so that they can get their own data. Continue reading SQL: A skill all Lean Six Sigma Belts should learn

Superforecasting – A skill for Black Belts

I am reading a book called Superforecasting: The art of science and prediction by Philip E. Tetlock.

This book is about making predictions and how by finding people who are very good at it, you can learn how to better your own skills.  This is another book, that is not about Lean Six Sigma, that can teach you skills that will help your Lean Six Sigma performance.

Forecasting, as used in this book, is about the collection of existing information  and then estimating the chance of something occurring.  Most of the research discussed in the book was performed by the US government after the belief that there were WMDs in Iraq was found to be wrong.

The intelligence community wanted to understand how they could be so wrong.  To answer this question, they brought together a bunch of academics and specialists in forecasting.  This group decided to understand forecasting through specific testing.  The goal was to find people that can forecast the future quite well. Continue reading Superforecasting – A skill for Black Belts

Testing Software Functionality – PFFT

Being a Master Black Belt has always involved a lot of activities outside of your primary skills.  We are so good at solving business problems and figuring out process issues, that our business may begin to believe we can figure out almost anything.

Well, in the past few months Forrest has tasked me with developing a software validation method for the Enterprise Performance Reporting System (EPRS) chart generation macros.  In the beginning, the macro functionality was simple and I could test it by just running it a few times.

As the complexity grew, testing software functionality began to be more complicated than just some ad-hoc tests.  I knew this because as the usage of the EPRS has grown, we have found more and more bugs in the macros. Continue reading Testing Software Functionality – PFFT