Sunday, April 17, 2011

Life Lessons In Odd Places

Sometimes life hands you lessons in some odd places.

The Value of Mistakes
I was fascinated to find, when I took some DMAIC training recently, that mistakes are not considered waste. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control and it is generally most useful in high volume processes where even the slightest improvement makes a material impact to quality and margins.

In DMAIC-land things like motion, waiting, rework and wasted intellect are considered waste but not mistakes because mistakes are useful learning opportunities.

The Non-Utility of Average
There's a good bit in the analyze section of DMAIC about defining the average. It basically says, be careful how you define the average because it matters.  There are different ways to define the average! The average called "mean", the one we normally think of when we say "average", is not always a good choice because it is easily distorted by outliers.  There are 2 methods for removing this noise.  One is to hack off the top and bottom 5% of the results.  The other is to delete outliers that don't have significant meaning.

If this still doesn't give you a neutral average, there are a couple of other ways to define average...the mode and the median. The most frequently occurring value is called the mode.  The median is an average where 50 % of the number of results lie above and 50% below that point.

So the next time you compare yourself (not a good idea in the first place) remember that what you consider average can actually vary quite a bit!

Here's to life lessons in odd places.

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