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Six Sigma

Blog posts and articles about using data analysis and statistical methods in Six Sigma quality improvement projects.

by Matt Barsalou, guest blogger I know that Thanksgiving is always on the last Thursday in November, but somehow I failed to notice it was fast approaching until the Monday before Thanksgiving. This led to frantically sending a last-minute invitation, and a hunt for a turkey. I live in Germany and this greatly complicated the matter. Not only is Thanksgiving not celebrated, but also actual turkeys... Continue Reading
Pareto charts are a special type of bar chart you can use to prioritize almost anything. This makes them very useful in making sound decisions. For example, if you have several possible quality improvement projects, but not enough time or people to do them all now, you can use a Pareto chart to identify which projects have the most potential for making meaningful improvement. Pareto charts look... Continue Reading

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

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At the inaugural Minitab Insights Conference in September, presenters Benjamin Turcan and Jennifer Berner discussed how to present data effectively. Among the considerations they discussed was choosing the right graph. Different graphs are good for different things. Of course, opinions about which graph is best can, and do, differ. Dotplot devotees might decide that they are demonstrably... Continue Reading
Every day, thousands of people withdraw extra cash for daily expenses. Each transaction may be small, but the total amount of cash dispersed over hundreds or thousands of daily transactions can be very high. But every bank branch has a fixed cash flow, which must be set without knowing what each customer will need on a given day. This creates a challenge for financial entities. Customers expect... Continue Reading
October 16–22 is National Healthcare Quality Week, started by the National Association for Healthcare Quality to increase awareness of healthcare quality programs and to highlight the work of healthcare quality professionals and their influence on improved patient care outcomes. This event deserves your attention because the quality of healthcare affects every one of us, and so does the cost of... Continue Reading
A reader asked a great question in response to a post I wrote about Pareto charts. Our readers typically do ask great questions, but this one turned out to be more difficult to answer than it first seemed. My correspondent wrote:  My understanding is that when you have count data, a bar chart is the way to go. The gaps between the bars emphasize that the data are not measured on a continuous scale.... Continue Reading
We hosted our first-ever Minitab Insights conference in September, and if you were among the attendees, you already know the caliber of the speakers and the value of the information they shared. Experts from a wide range of industries offered a lot of great lessons about how they use data analysis to improve business practices and solve a variety of problems. I blogged earlier about five key... Continue Reading
The other day I was talking with a friend about control charts, and I wanted to share an example one of my colleagues wrote on the Minitab Blog.  Looking back through the index for "control charts" reminded me just how much material we've published on this topic. Whether you're just getting started with control charts, or you're an old hand at statistical process control, you'll find some valuable... Continue Reading
It's been called a "demographic watershed".  In the next 15 years alone, the worldwide population of individuals aged 65 and older is projected to increase more than 60%, from 617 million to about 1 billion.1 Increasingly, countries are asking themselves: How can we ensure a high quality of care for our growing aging population while keeping our healthcare costs under control? The answer? More... Continue Reading
Earlier this month, PLOS.org published an article titled "Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice." The 10 rules are good reading for anyone who draws conclusions and makes decisions based on data, whether you're trying to extend the boundaries of scientific knowledge or make good decisions for your business.  Carnegie Mellon University's Robert E. Kass and several co-authors devised... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger Control charts plot your process data to identify and distinguish between common cause and special cause variation. This is important, because identifying the different causes of variation lets you take action to make improvements in your process without over-controlling it. When you create a control chart, the software you're using should make it easy to see where... Continue Reading
By looking at the data we have about 500 cardiac patients, we've learned that easy access to the hospital and good transportation are key factors influencing participation in a rehabilitation program. Past data shows that each month, about 15 of the patients discharged after cardiac surgery do not have a car. Providing transportation to the hospital might make these patients more likely to join... Continue Reading
In part 2 of this series, we used graphs and tables to see how individual factors affected rates of patient participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program. This initial look at the data indicated that ease of access to the hospital was a very important contributor to patient participation. Given this revelation, a bus or shuttle service for people who do not have cars might be a good way to... Continue Reading
What does the eyesight of a homeless person have in common with complications from dental anesthesia?  Or with reducing side-effects from cancer? Or monitoring artificial hip implants? These are all subjects of recently published studies that use statistical analyses in Minitab to improve healthcare outcomes. And they're a good reminder  that when we improve the quality of healthcare for others, we... Continue Reading
My previous post covered the initial phases of a project to attract and retain more patients in a cardiac rehabilitation program, as described in a 2011 Quality Engineering article. A Pareto chart of the reasons enrolled patients left the program indicated that the hospital could do little to encourage participants to attend a greater number of sessions, so the team focused on increasing initial... Continue Reading
Over the past year I've been able to work with and learn from practitioners and experts who are using data analysis and Six Sigma to improve the quality of healthcare, both in terms of operational efficiency and better patient outcomes. I've been struck by how frequently a very basic analysis can lead to remarkable improvements, but some insights cannot be attained without conducting more... Continue Reading
While many Six Sigma practitioners and other quality improvement professionals like to use the Fishbone diagram in Quality Companion for brainstorming because of its ease of use and integration with other Quality Companion tools, some Minitab users find an infrequent need for a Fishbone diagram. For the more casual user of the Fishbone diagram, Minitab has the right tool to get the job done. Minitab... Continue Reading
by Laerte de Araujo Lima, guest blogger The NBA's 2015-16 season will be one for the history books. Not only was it the last season of Kobe Bryan, who scored 60 points in his final game, but the Golden State Warriors set a new wins record, beating the previous record set by 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The Warriors seem likely to take this season's NBA title, in large part thanks to the performance of... Continue Reading
There has been plenty of noisy disagreement about the state of health care in the past several years, but when you get beyond the controversies surrounding various programs and changes, a great deal of common ground exists. Everyone agrees that there's a lot of waste and inefficiency in the way we've been doing things, and that health care should be delivered as efficiently and effectively as... Continue Reading
For the majority of my career with Minitab, I've had the opportunity to speak at conferences and other events somewhat regularly. I thought some of my talks were pretty good, and some were not so good (based on ratings, my audiences didn't always agree with either—but that's a topic for another post). But I would guess that well over 90% of the time, my proposals were accepted to be presented at... Continue Reading