Blog posts and articles about statistics principles and how they apply to quality improvement methods like Lean and Six Sigma.

You've collected a bunch of data. It wasn't easy, but you did it. Yep, there it is, right there...just look at all those numbers, right there in neat columns and rows. Congratulations. I hate to ask...but what are you going to do with your data? If you're not sure precisely what to do with the data you've got, graphing it is a great way to get some valuable insight and direction. And a good graph to... Continue Reading
In my last post, I wrote about making a cluttered data set easier to work with by removing unneeded columns entirely, and by displaying just those columns you want to work with now. But too much unneeded data isn't always the problem. What can you do when someone gives you data that isn't organized the way you need it to be?   That happens for a variety of reasons, but most often it's because the... Continue Reading

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

Do you know how to avoid them?

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In its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation: Process Design, Process Qualification, and Continued Process Verification. In this post, we we will focus on that third stage. Stage 3: Continued Process Verification Per the FDA guidelines, the goal of... Continue Reading
People can make mistakes when they test a hypothesis with statistical analysis. Specifically, they can make either Type I or Type II errors. As you analyze your own data and test hypotheses, understanding the difference between Type I and Type II errors is extremely important, because there's a risk of making each type of error in every analysis, and the amount of risk is in your control.    So if... Continue Reading
Welcome to the Hypothesis Test Casino! The featured game of the house is roulette. But this is no ordinary game of roulette. This is p-value roulette! Here’s how it works: We have two roulette wheels, the Null wheel and the Alternative wheel. Each wheel has 20 slots (instead of the usual 37 or 38). You get to bet on one slot. What happens if the ball lands in the slot you bet on? Well, that depends... Continue Reading
Like many, my introduction to 17th-century French philosophy came at the tender age of 3+. For that is when I discovered the Etch-a-Sketch®, an entertaining ode to Descartes' coordinate plane. Little did I know that the seemingly idle hours I spent doodling on my Etch-a-Sketch would prove to be excellent training for the feat that I attempt today: plotting an Empirical Cumulative Distribution... Continue Reading
My colleague Cody Steele wrote a post that illustrated how the same set of data can appear to support two contradictory positions. He showed how changing the scale of a graph that displays mean and median household income over time drastically alters the way it can be interpreted, even though there's no change in the data being presented. When we analyze data, we need to present the results in... Continue Reading
Right now I’m enjoying my daily dose of morning joe. As the steam rises off the cup, the dark rich liquid triggers a powerful enzyme cascade that jump-starts my brain and central nervous system, delivering potent glints of perspicacity into the dark crevices of my still-dormant consciousness. Feels good, yeah! But is it good for me? Let’s see what the studies say… Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee... Continue Reading
Statistics can be challenging, especially if you're not analyzing data and interpreting the results every day. Statistical software makes things easier by handling the arduous mathematical work involved in statistics. But ultimately, we're responsible for correctly interpreting and communicating what the results of our analyses show. The p-value is probably the most frequently cited statistic. We... Continue Reading
Histograms are one of the most common graphs used to display numeric data. Anyone who takes a statistics course is likely to learn about the histogram, and for good reason: histograms are easy to understand and can instantly tell you a lot about your data. Here are three of the most important things you can learn by looking at a histogram.  Shape—Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall… If the left side of a... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger.  The old saying “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it must be a duck” may be appropriate in bird watching; however, the same idea can’t be applied when observing a statistical distribution. The dedicated ornithologist is often armed with binoculars and a field guide to the local birds and this should be sufficient. A... Continue Reading
Have you ever wanted to know the odds of something happening, or not happening?  It's the kind of question that students are frequently asked to calculate by hand in introductory statistics classes, and going through that exercise is a good way to become familiar with the mathematical formulas the underlie probability (and hence, all of statistics).  But let's be honest: when class is over, most... Continue Reading
In its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation. While my last post covered statistical tools for the Process Design stage, here we will focus on the statistical techniques typically utilized for the second stage, Process Qualification. Stage 2: Process... Continue Reading
Have you ever wished your control charts were better?  More effective and user-friendly?  Easier to understand and act on?  In this post, I'll share some simple ways to make SPC monitoring more effective in Minitab. Common Problems with SPC Control Charts I worked for several years in a large manufacturing plant in which control charts played a very important role. Virtually thousands of SPC... Continue Reading
T'was the season for toys recently, and Christmas day found me playing around with a classic, the Etch-a-Sketch. As I noodled with the knobs, I had a sudden flash of recognition: my drawing reminded me of the Empirical CDF Plot in Minitab Statistical Software. Did you just ask, "What's a CDF plot? And what's so empirical about it?" Both very good questions. Let's start with the first, and we'll... Continue Reading
In my last post on DMAIC tools for the Define phase, we reviewed various graphs and stats typically used to define project goals and customer deliverables. Let’s now move along to the tools you can use in Minitab Statistical Software to conduct the Measure phase. Measure Phase Methodology The goal of this phase is to measure the process to determine its current performance and quantify the problem.... Continue Reading
When you’re working in Minitab and prepping your data for analysis, it’s common to group data into categories that imply a specific order, such as Low, Medium, High or Beginning, Middle, End. But if the data were to appear in a different order in tables and graphs (for example, Beginning, End, Middle), the result could be confusing, and might distract from your message. Fortunately, with Minitab’s va... Continue Reading
As we enter late December, snow is falling here on the East Coast of the United States. The official start to winter is on December 21, 2016, but it’s certainly not uncommon to see snowflakes flying before this date. If you live in the U.S., you know the winter of 2015 was one for the record books. In fact, more than 90 inches of snow fell in Boston in the winter of 2015! Have you ever wondered how... Continue Reading
If you’re familiar with Lean Six Sigma, then you’re familiar with DMAIC. DMAIC is the acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. This proven problem-solving strategy provides a structured 5-phase framework to follow when working on an improvement project. This is the first post in a five-part series that focuses on the tools available in Minitab Statistical Software that are most... Continue Reading
Dear Readers, As 2016 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the passage of time and changes. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I love statistics and analyzing data! I also love talking and writing about it. In fact, I’ve been writing statistical blog posts for over five years, and it’s been an absolute blast. John Tukey, the renowned statistician, once said, “The best thing about being a statistician... Continue Reading