Six Sigma B.C.

At the ASQ World conference in St. Louis, I discovered a limiting belief that's been staring me in the face for almost 20 years. Everyone seems to think that you have to know how to draw a chart manually (i.e., by hand) and do all of the calculations, by hand, to know how to do improvement or SPC. This is idiotic.

You don't need to know electro mechanics to turn on a light bulb. You just turn it on.

You don't need to know fluid dynamics to flush a toilet.

You don't need to know computer science to turn on a computer; you just do it.

This hallucination that you need to know the formulas to calculate a control limit on a control chart or capability on a histogram is silly.

Limiting Belief: Manual = Learning 

In 1991, I attended a five day control chart class. We learned every formula to every chart and calculated them by hand using a calculator. Out of five days, we spent one hour on what the chart told us. Wrong!

A friend of mine developed a video on pareto analysis. It was 20 minutes of how to draw a pareto chart manually and one minute on what the chart means. Wrong!

Six Sigma B.C.

As I wandered around ASQ I noticed all of the gray-haired old guys like me. We learned the charts before there was software to draw the charts. We had to do it manually. We've confused correlation with causation. You don't have to draw a chart manually or calculate a formula manually to learn Six Sigma. We had to learn that way.

I realized that most of us had grown up B.C. (before computers).

It's like the old story that trainers often tell in Six Sigma training: Mom cuts the ham in half before she bakes it for the holidays. We ask mom, why? She says because grandma did it that way. We ask grandma: "Why did you cut the ham in half?" She says: "Because my oven was too small for a whole ham."

Here's my point: traditions endure because we don't know any other way.

Now, using the QI Macros, you can draw paretos, control charts and histograms without knowing any of the formulas. Just draw the chart and learn something. What is the chart telling you? That's the only important thing about the chart.

I watch my grandson use a smart phone app to figure out something that would have been impossible a few years ago.

Isn't it time that we, the quality community, wised up and figured out that people don't have to learn the hard way? Can't we draw a chart and learn from it without knowing the math behind it?

Sure, we can layer in the formula learning later, if need be. But right now, what is the chart telling us about how to improve? That's the only thing that matters.

People wonder why I can teach Lean Six Sigma in a day, while others take a week or more. Here's my secret: I don't teach them how to do things manually. I teach them how to do things using a computer to get charts that tell them what to improve.

Call me "new fashioned", but that's what's important.

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