Control Charts in R: A Guide to X-Bar/R Charts in the qcc Package

xbar-chartStatistical process control provides a mechanism for measuring, managing, and controlling processes. There are many different flavors of control charts, but if data are readily available, the X-Bar/R approach is often used. The following PDF describes X-Bar/R charts and shows you how to create them in R and interpret the results, and uses the fantastic qcc package that was developed by Luca Scrucca. Please let me know if you find it helpful!

Creating and Interpreting X-Bar/R Charts in R

What if Your Job Was Focused on Play?

james-siegal

James Siegal (picture from his Twitter profile, @jsiegal at http://twitter.com/jsiegal)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to James Siegal, the President of KaBOOM! – a non-profit whose mission is lighthearted, but certainly not frivolous: to bring balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids! James is another new Business Innovation Factory (BIF) storyteller for 2015… and I wanted to find out how I could learn from his experiences to bring a sense of play into the work environment. (For me, that’s at a university, interacting with students on a daily basis.)

Over the past 20 years, KaBOOM! has built thousands of playgrounds, focusing on children growing up in poverty. By enlisting the help of over a million volunteers, James and his organization have mobilized communities using a model that starts with kids designing their dream playgrounds. It’s a form of crowdsourced placemaking.

Now, KaBOOM! is thinking about a vision that’s a little broader: driving social change at the city level. Doing this, they’ve found, requires answering one key question: How can you integrate play into the daily routine for kids and families? If play is a destination, there are “hassle factors” that must be overcome: safety, travel time, good lighting, and restroom facilities, for starters. So, in addition to building playgrounds, KaBOOM! is challenging cities to think about integrating play everywhere — on the sidewalk, at the bus stop, and beyond.

How can this same logic apply to organizations integrating play into their cultures? Although KaBOOM! focuses on kids, he had some more generalizable advice:

  • The desire for play has to be authentic, not forced. “We truly value kids, and we truly value families. Our policies and our culture strive to reflect that.” What does your organization value at its core? Seek to amplify the enjoyment of that.
  • We take our work really seriously,” he said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. You have to leave your ego at the door.” Can your organization engage in more playful collaboration?
  • We drive creativity out of kids as they grow older, he noted. “Kids expect to play everywhere,” and so even ordinary elements like sidewalks can turn into experiences. (This reminded me of how people decorate the Porta-Potties at Burning Man with lights and music… although I wouldn’t necessarily do the same thing to the restrooms at my university, it did make me think about how we might make ordinary places or situations more fun for our students.)

KaBOOM! is such a unique organization that I had to ask James: what’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever observed in your role as President? He says it’s something that hasn’t just happened once… but happens every time KaBOOM! organizes a new playground build. When people from diverse backgrounds come together with a strong shared mission, vision, and purpose, you foster intense community engagement that yields powerful, tangible results — and this is something that so many organizations strive to achieve.

If you haven’t made plans already to hear James and the other storytellers at BIF, there may be a few tickets left — but this event always sells out! Check the BIF registration page and share a memorable experience with the BIF community this year: http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/summit/register

3 Steps to Creating an Innovative Performance Culture

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Want to leapfrog over your competitors by designing an extremely high-performance culture for your organization? If so, I have the secret formula.

It starts here: in his August post to ASQ’s View From the Q blog, guest blogger James Lawther asks:

What are your DOs and DON’Ts of creating a performance culture?

Citing Deming and Drucker, and noting how so many organizations rely on a “carrots and sticks” approach to performance management, he converges on the following recommendation: “The way to create a high performance culture is to seek out poor performance, embrace it and fix it, not punish it.” I think, though, that this is not a new approach… rather than improving upon poor performance, why don’t we seek out truly amazing performance and then just make more of it? These three steps will help you do it:

  • Eliminate power relationships. Power is poison! It creates and cultivates fear (which, according to Deming, we need to drive out). Unfortunately, our educational system and our economy are firmly steeped in power relationships… so we’re not accustomed to truly cooperative relationships. (In fact, being reliant on the income from our jobs shoehorns us into power relationships before we even begin working.) Holacracy is one approach that some organizations are trying out, but there are many possibilities for shifting from organizational structures that are designed around power and control, versus those that are designed to stimulate interest, creativity, and true collaboration.
  • Create systems to help everyone find (and share) their unique skills, talents, and gifts. This is the key to both engagement and high performance — and this isn’t a one-shot deal. These skills, talents, and gifts are extremely dependent on the organizational context, the external environment, and a person’s current interests… and all of these change over time!
  • Create systems to help people become stewards of their own performance. Accenture and Google have both recently given up performance reviews… and Deming has always warned about them! Unless we’re managing our own performance, and the process and outcomes are meaningful to us individually, we’ll just be dragged down by another power relationship.

Quality professionals are great at designing and setting up systems to achieve performance goals! Now, we have an innovation challenge: adopt the new philosophy, design quality systems that substitute community in place of power and control, and use our sophisticated and capable information systems to give people agency over their own performance.

“Creative teamwork utterly depends on true communication and is thus very seriously hindered by the presence of power relationships. The open-source community, effectively free of such power relationships, is teaching us by contrast how dreadfully much they cost in bugs, in lowered productivity, and in lost opportunities.” — E. S. Raymond in The Cathedral and the Bazaar

A Chat with Jaime Casap, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist

jaime-casap-head

“The classroom of the future does not exist!”

That’s the word from Jaime Casap (@jcasap), Google’s Chief Education Evangelist — and a highly anticipated new Business Innovation Factory (BIF) storyteller for 2015.  In advance of the summit which takes place on September 16 and 17, Morgan and I had the opportunity to chat with Jaime about a form of business model innovation that’s close to our hearts – improving education. He’s a native New Yorker, so he’s naturally outspoken and direct. But his caring and considerate tone makes it clear he’s got everyone’s best interests at heart.

At Google, he’s the connector and boundary spanner… the guy the organization trusts to “predict the future” where education is concerned. He makes sure that the channels of communication are open between everyone working on education-related projects. Outside of Google, he advocates smart and innovative applications of technology in education that will open up educational opportunities for everyone.  Most recently, he visited the White House on this mission.

jaime-quote-image

The current system educational system is not broken, he says. It’s doing exactly what it was designed to do: prepare workers for a hierarchical, industrialized production economy. The problem is that the system cannot be high-performing because it’s not doing what we need it to for the upcoming decades, which requires leveraging the skills and capabilities of everyone.

He points out that low-income minorities now have a 9% chance of graduating from college… whereas a couple decades ago, they had a 6% chance. This startling statistic reflects an underlying deficiency in how education is designed and delivered in this country today.

So how do we fix it?

“Technology gives us the ability to question everything,” he says.  As we shift to performance-based assessments, we can create educational experiences that are practical, iterative, and focused on continuous improvement — where we measure iteration, innovation, and sustained incremental progress.

Measuring these, he says, will be a lot more interesting than what we tend to measure now: whether a learner gets something right the first time — or how long it took for a competency to emerge. From this new perspective, we’ll finally be able to answer questions like: What is an excellent school? What does a high-performing educational system look (and feel) like?

Jaime’s opportunity-driven vision for inclusiveness  is an integral part of Google’s future. And you can hear more about his personal story and how it shaped this vision next month at BIF.

If you haven’t made plans already to hear Jaime and the other storytellers at BIF, there may be a few tickets left — but this event always sells out! Check the BIF registration page and share a memorable experience with the BIF community this year: http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/summit/register

Data Quality is Key for Asset Management in Data Science

This post was motivated by two recent tweets by Dr. Diego Kuonen, Principal of Statoo Consulting in Switzerland (who you should definitely follow if you don’t already – he’s one of the only other people in the world who thinks about data science and quality). First, he shared a slide show from CIO Insight with this clickbaity title, bound to capture the attention of any manager who cares about their bottom line (yeah, they’re unicorns):

“The Best Way to Use Data to Cut Costs? Delete It.”

I’m so happy this message is starting to enter corporate consciousness, because I lived it throughout the decade of the 2000’s — working on data management for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). I published several papers during that time that present the following position on this theme (links to the full text articles are at the bottom of this post):

  • First, storing data means you’ve saved it to physical media; archiving data implies that you are storing data over a longer (and possibly very long) time horizon.
  • Even though storage is cheap, don’t store (or archive) everything. Inventories have holding costs, and data warehouses are no different (even though those electrons are so, so tiny).
  • Archiving data that is of dubious quality is never advised. (It’s like piling your garage full of all those early drafts of every paper you’ve ever written… and having done this, I strongly recommend against it.)
  • Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether the raw data we’re collecting is fundamentally good or bad — but we have to try.
  • Data science provides fantastic techniques for learning what is meant by data quality, and then automating the classification process.
  • The intent of whoever collects the data is bound to be different than whoever uses the data in the future.
  • If we do not capture intent, we are significantly suppressing the potential that the data asset will have in the future.

Although I hadn’t seen this when I was deeply enmeshed in the problem long ago, it totally warmed my heart when Diego followed up with this quote from Deming in 1942:

dont-archive-it

 

In my opinion, the need for a dedicated focus on understanding what we mean by data quality (for our particular contexts) and then working to make sure we don’t load up our Big Data opportunities with Bad Data liabilities will be the difference between competitive and combustible in the future. Mind your data quality before your data science. It will also positively impact the sustainability of your data archive.

Papers where I talked about why NOT to archive all your data are here:

  1. Radziwill, N. M., 2006: Foundations for Quality Management of Scientific Data Products. Quality Management Journal, v13 Issue 2 (April), p. 7-21.
  2. Radziwill, N. M., 2006: Valuation, Policy and Software Strategy. SPIE, Orlando FL, May 25-31.
  3. Radziwill, N.M. and R. DuPlain, 2005: A Framework for Telescope Data Quality Management. Proc. SPIE, Madrid, Spain, October 2-5, 2005.
  4. DuPlain, R. F. and N.M. Radziwill, 2006: Autonomous Quality Assurance and Troubleshooting. SPIE, Orlando FL, May 25-31.
  5. DuPlain, R., Radziwill, N.M., & Shelton, A., 2007: A Rule-Based Data Quality Startup Using PyCLIPS. ADASS XVII, London UK, September 2007.

 

A Robust Approach to Determining Voice of the Customer (VOC)

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

I got really excited when I discovered Morris Holbrook’s 1996 piece on customer value, and wanted to share it with all of you. From the perspective of philosophy, he puts together a vision of what we should mean by customer value… and a framework for specifying it. The general approach is straightforward:

“Customer Value provides the foundation for all marketing activity…
One can understand a given type of value only by considering its relationship to other types of value.
Thus, we can understand Quality only by comparison with Beauty, Convenience, and Reputation; we can understand Beauty only by comparison with Quality, Fun, and Ecstasy.”

There are MANY dimensions that should be addressed when attempting to characterize the Voice of the Customer (VOC). When interacting with your customers or potential customers, be sure to use surveys or interview techniques that aim to acquire information in all of these areas for a complete assessment of VOC.

The author defines customer value as an “interactive relativistic preference experience”:

  • Interactive – you construct your notion of value through interaction with the object
  • Relativistic – you instinctively do pairwise comparisons (e.g. “I like Company A’s customer service better than Company B’s”)
  • Preference – you make judgments about the value of an object
  • Experience – value is realized at the consumption stage, rather than the purchase stage

Hist typology of customer value is particularly interesting to me:

typology-customer-value

Most of the time, we do a good job at coming up with quality attributes that reflect efficiency and excellence. Some of the time, we consider aesthetics and play. But how often – while designing a product, process, or service – have you really thought about status, esteem, ethics, and spirituality as dimensions of quality?

This requires taking an “other-oriented” approach, as recommended by Holbrook. We’re not used to doing that – but as organizations transform to adjust the age of empathy, it will be necessary.

Holbrook, M. B. (1996) . “Special Session Summary Customer Value C a Framework For Analysis and Research”, in NA – Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 138-142. Retrieved from http://www.acrwebsite.org/search/view-conference-proceedings.aspx?Id=7929

Quality and Diversity, Especially Women in Tech

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

The newly launched R Consortium has announced its inaugural Board members, and not one of them is a woman. (Even more unfortunately, I don’t think any of them are active R users; although I’m sure he’s used it, the new President’s bio establishes him as a SAS and S-PLUS user.)

Although I’m sure the lack of diversity is an oversight (as it so often is), I’ve gotten my knickers in a knot a lot more about this issue lately. It’s probably just because I’m getting older (I’ll be 40 next year), but it’s also due to the fact that I’ve been reflecting an awful lot more lately: about what I’ve done, and what I’ve chosen not to do. About how I’ve struggled, and the battles I’ve chosen (versus those I’ve chosen to ignore). About how the subtle and unspoken climate of women in technology is keeping them out, and chasing them away, even though the industry needs more.

I really love programming. I’ve been doing it since 1982, when I realized that I could make my Atari 800 beep on command.

But in the workplace, I never really felt comfortable as a programmer. Whether they intended to or not, male colleagues always gave off a vibe of mistrust when they integrated my code… they always had a better way to design a new module, or a better approach to resolve a troubleshooting issue. When I got an instrumentation job that required field work on the hardware, I’d hear comments like “maybe you can stay here… girls don’t like to get dirty.” I felt uncomfortable geeking out with other women because I even felt like I’d be judged by them… like if they were some technical rock star, they would find my skills an embarrassment to other women like themselves who were trying to become experts.

So I went into software development management, where my role was much more accepted. My job was to let the coders do their job, and just keep everyone else out of their hair. I remember hearing comments like “you know a lot more about code than I thought you would.” I wanted to get a lot deeper into the technical aspects of the work, but I never felt like one of the guys. So I stopped trying.

Even while working as a manager, the organizations I was a part of were always male-dominated, in both the hierarchy and the style and tone of the work environment. (It was much like the masculine, emotionally void environment of so many of the classrooms I’d spent time in during my youth.) I felt lots of pressure to be firm and decisive, to never show emotions, and to work a 60 hour week even when I had a newborn at home. When I was firm and unyielding, I was called “difficult” and “strident.” I changed my approach and became “not assertive enough.” The women who I saw as being successful were all decidedly masculine, and I couldn’t transform my personality to become an ultra-productive, emotion-suppressing machine. (I’ve got the personality of an artist, and I’ve got to flow with my ideas and inspiration.)

Eventually I lost my mojo, switched careers entirely and went into higher education. (What do I teach? Mostly R… so I’m having fun, and I get to code pretty much every day.) But I still fantasize about getting back into the technical workforce and being one of those rare women leaders in technology (which I try to rationalize is not that rare at all, because I know plenty of women scientists, engineers, and technicians). But yeah, comparatively, we are a minority.

My situation is not unique. So why does this tend to happen? Gordon Hunt of Silicon Republic reports that gender stereotypes, a small talent pool, and in-group favoritism are to blame. I’ll agree with the gender stereotyping – even women do it to each other. My college roommate called me “Nerdcole” and it was sort of endearing, and sort of not. As a hiring manager, I remember being surprised every time a resume from a woman crossed my email box, and giving it a second look no matter what. I remember feeling guilty every time I thought “oh, well, she can’t be as serious about doing this as the guys are.” As for in-group favoritism, I think it’s hard not to favor naturally masculine people for jobs in a naturally masculine environment. 

The role of diversity in achieving quality and stimulating innovation has not been deeply explored in the research. Doing a quick literature search, I could only find a few examples. Liang et al. (2013) found that diversity does influence innovation, but due to inconsistent outcomes they couldn’t recommend a management intervention. Feldman & Audretch (1999) found that more innovation occurs in cities because of greater diversity. Ostergaard et al. (2011) explored the breadth of a firm’s knowledge base and its influence on innovation. And in one of my favorite papers ever, Bassett-Jones (2005) explains that diversity creates a “combustible cocktail of creative tension” that, although difficult to manage, ultimately enhancesa firm’s innovation performance.

I found no papers that looked at a link between diversity and quality performance.

But I would love to have a combustible cocktail of creative tension right now.

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