Tag Archives: pareto charts

A Day at “Quality Camp”!

On Saturday, March 24, I led the “Quality Tools for Problem Solving” sessions at the 2012 JMU Expanding Your Horizons conference, affiliated with the national program of the same name. In just 50 minutes, we learned how to use affinity diagrams, checksheets, and Pareto Charts to identify the “vital few” causes or reasons for each team’s problem of choice.

The mission of the conference is to stimulate interest in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM fields) among girls in junior high and early high school. In my sessions, I had about 30 young participants from 5th through 9th grade. Plus, I also had about 10 parents who very enthusiastically formed parents-only teams (including one that explored the question “Our children drive us crazy! What can they improve on to enhance their relationships with parents?”)

It was a great day. Everyone was engaged, several of the students commented on how easy it was to generate solid, data-driven conclusions, and a couple parents even remarked on what a great process this would be to solve problems more effectively at work!

Our 55-minute session was scheduled like this:

  • 10 minutes intro
  • 6 minutes to choose a team name and a problem to focus on
  • 6 minutes to brainstorm as many causes or reasons for the problem, and write each idea on a yellow post-it note
  • 6 minutes to categorize the yellow post-it notes into 6 themes, write those themes on colored post-it-notes, and create an affinity diagram out of all the post-it notes
  • 6 minutes to prepare a one-page checksheet for all participants to record their “Top 2 Choices”
  • 6 minutes for everyone to record their “votes” on each of the teams’ checksheets
  • 10 minutes for the teams to prepare their Pareto Charts by hand
  • 1 minute for each team to informally share their results!

Several parents asked if they could use the same exercise at their workplace and I enthusiastically agreed. This applies to everyone! Feel free to use the exercise and attached worksheets – just be sure to cite the URL and let us know how you’re making use of the materials. Have fun!

The exercise is at http://nicoleradziwill.com/courses/affinity-checksheet-pareto-exercise.pdf

The worksheets we used are at http://nicoleradziwill.com/courses/eyh-worksheets.jpg (better copies will be posted in a couple days)

Pareto Charts in R

A Pareto Chart is a sorted bar chart that displays the frequency (or count) of occurrences that fall in different categories, from greatest frequency on the left to least frequency on the right, with an overlaid line chart that plots the cumulative percentage of occurrences. The vertical axis on the left of the chart shows frequency (or count), and the vertical axis on the right of the chart shows the cumulative percentage. A Pareto Chart is typically used to visualize:

  • Primary types or sources of defects
  • Most frequent reasons for customer complaints
  • Amount of some variable (e.g. money, energy usage, time) that can be attributed to or classified according to a certain category

The Pareto Chart is typically used to separate the “vital few” from the “trivial many” using the Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 Rule, which asserts that approximately 80% of effects come from 20% of causes for many systems. Pareto analysis can thus be used to find, for example, the most critical types or sources of defects, the most common complaints that customers have, or the most essential categories within which to focus problem-solving efforts.

To find out how to implement a Pareto Chart in R, download this PDF: Radziwill_Pareto