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Patrick Runkel

Communicating statistical concepts quickly and clearly is just as critical as being able to calculate them, so I focus on quick, practical insights about statistics to help you make data-driven decisions. Continue Reading »

In my last blog, we compared fatality rates on Himalayan peaks to determine which mountain provides the biggest challenge for would-be mountaineers in search of death thrills.  Of course, if you’re an adventure/trekking company, you have another goal: to guide thrill-seeking mountaineers to the peak safely. You want to protect your customers from experiencing the ultimate defect: death.So you need... Continue Reading
Earlier this month, thousands of trekkers were stranded by bad weather near Mount Everest and had to be evacuated. The news made me wonder: Just how many people are chillin' on Chololungma ( “Holy Mother”—the Tibetan name for Everest) these days? So I decided to do some exploring of the statistical variety, using Minitab as my trusty Sherpa.Exploratory analyses are a great way to reveal... Continue Reading

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Are you someone who never imagined you’d be using statistics in your work? Do you feel, at times, like an undercover interloper in the land of p-values, as you step gingerly to avoid statistical land mines with long, complex-sounding names? For example, do you feel a slight chill run down your spine when you read:“For your analysis results to be valid, you should ascertain whether your data satisfy... Continue Reading
The countdown on my favorite Minitab tips and tricks continues. If you missed tips #6-#10, check out my previous blog. Coming in at #5, the answer to last blog's trivia quiz: Export a Minitab graph to PowerPoint You won't believe how easy this is. Right-click any graph you've created in Minitab and choose Send Graph to Microsoft PowerPoint. You don't even need to open PowerPoint. Minitab does it... Continue Reading
Are you old enough to remember the glory days of Casey Kasem and the American Top 40 Countdown? Unfortunately, I am. In honor of all the teenyboppers of the past, and all the Minitab users of the present, here’s a countdown of my personal “Top 10 Tips and Tricks” in Minitab Statistical Software, paired with miscellaneous hits from Billboard’s 100 All-Time Top Songs List.Disclaimer: The author is... Continue Reading
You know that using statistical quality analysis to ensure that your product meets requirements is a great way to keep your customers happy. But as you analyze your data, there’s another person you want to keep happy—a statistician. As we saw in a previous blog, performing a hypothesis test repeatedly without controlling the family error rate increases the likelihood that any... Continue Reading
I’d like to give you a chance to win some money. Tell me which of these games you’d rather play: Game 1: We flip a coin once. If it lands on tails, I’ll give you 100 bucks.Game 2: We flip a coin 10 times. If it lands on tails at least one time, I’ll give you 100 bucks. If you said “Doh” and picked Game 2, either you’re Homer Simpson or you already have a good intuitive understanding of an important... Continue Reading
Most Lean Six Sigma projects use data analysis to examine and reduce the prevalence of defects in a product or service. Experienced quality practitioners know that defects can sometimes feel abstract when you analyze them, until you’re the customer who experiences them firsthand.   On my first trip to Rome, my luggage never showed up in the terminal.So instead of gazing in awe at the Sistine... Continue Reading
If you’re a quality improvement expert, you already know that statistics can be a powerful tool in your quest to reduce the cost of poor quality and save money. But statistics might be even more powerful than you think—it may actually have helped someone win a lottery jackpot. According to Business Insider, a former mathematics professor with a Ph.D. in statistics has won the Texas lottery... Continue Reading
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the "perfect" proportion. We’re adding a sunroom to our house and debating the best dimensions for the rectangular addition. Naturally, "the golden ratio" is an enticing option. Also called the Divine Proportion, the golden ratio has gotten a lot of buzz over the centuries. Its basis is simple yet profound. Take a line segment and divide it into two segments... Continue Reading
We humans do have a tendency to succumb to gold rush fever. And this can happen even in the left-brained, rational field of statistics. After we collect our data, it’s difficult to resist the urge to desperately dash for p-values, as if they were 70% off at Macy’s the day after Thanksgiving.But no matter how well-versed you are in statistics, it’s good practice to get into the habit of intuitively... Continue Reading
  Time series plots help us see variations over time by displaying observations on the y-axis against equally spaced time intervals on the x-axis. In Lean Six Sigma, they can show you the before-and-after effects of a process change. I recently used a time series plot to see how the price of gold has changed over time. After reaching record highs recently, gold prices have dipped, although some... Continue Reading
Ever feel frustrated with the flip-floppy results reported in the medical news? Today a cup of coffee will lead you to an early grave. Tomorrow it will ensure that you’ll be dancing a jig on your 99th birthday. Every day, it seems there’s a new study that contradicts a previous finding.   In response, some people throw up their hands in helplessness. Others shrug—then chug another double-shot of... Continue Reading
Sometimes, statistical terms can seem like they were zapped down from outer space by sadistic, mealy-mouthed aliens: R-squared adjusted, heteroeskadasticity, 3-parameter Weibull distribution. But not all statistics terminology should leave you feeling woozy and glassy-eyed. Some terms  actually make intuitive sense. Knowing those terms can help you get a handle on output that may seem fuzzy at... Continue Reading
Let’s face it. You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy with our business. In a world that spins at about 1,000 miles per hour, and seems to pick up speed every day , we’re lucky if we have enough time, energy, and focus to put on matching socks in the morning. (Notice that my socks have been cropped from this picture.) So trying to quickly get a handle on the statistics you need for a quality... Continue Reading