Groundhog Day and the Makings of Useful Statistics

Groundhog Day and the Makings of Useful Statistics

Groundhog Day has come and passed, and that furry little prognosticator has said there will be six more weeks of winter. Since we are stuck inside, we are biding our time by being statistics nerds.  That led us to take a look at Punxsutawney Phil's analysis skills...and how the tradition hampers any real learning from his data set. It is rather ridiculous to believe in a meteorologically gifted rodent, but it's not too surprising since we are rather ridiculous prognosticators ourselves.  The author Daniel Kahnneman points out this fact in the first 14 chapters of Thinking Fast and Slow. What's Phil's winning record? Punxsutawney Phil, whom we like to think is the REAL groundhog, has a track record that is somewhat disputed. What’s our data set? Over the 139 years there in northern PA, he’s predicted six more weeks 99 times, and early spring 15 times. (Some records have been lost…those must be the ones that Bill Murray kept reliving.) If we look at...
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Thinking Like Deming- Not easy, but very worthwhile

Book Review: "My heartfelt wish is that you are inspired to carry the message and the meaning in these pages into your life and your leadership to help your business enterprise and other organizations in your field of influence to develop and become sustainable entities that thrive and evolve, making our communities—our society—strong, vibrant, and joyful. When we have mapped the four movements as one whole, then we can open our eyes and the eyes of others wider so that together we see the many different aspects of our lives as part of a larger context …" This is from Mr. Edward Martin Baker’s "Coda"  in what is perhaps the best single reference and explanation of Deming’s thoughts, ideas, and work that I have had the pleasure to read, The Symphony of Profound Knowledge, W. Edwards Deming's Score for Leading, Performing and Living in Concert . Yes, it’s a weighty, deeply referenced work yet still an enjoyable work, if even only for the continual...
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Seven Lessons about Leading Teams I Learned from Nettles

Seven Lessons about Leading Teams I Learned from Nettles

For those who hike or are into wild natural foods, you have likely heard of stinging nettles, sometimes referred to as burn hazel. However, for most folks, this seeming weed remains a misunderstood member of the botanical world. When my wife and I bought our hobby farm four years ago, three of the ten acres were densely covered in stinging nettles. My first tour of the property was a painful trek through knee high stinging nettles because, as their name clearly tells us, they sting. The chemical that is passed from its hairy leaves and stems is actually referred to as venom. Yikes! That walk and my subsequent nettles adventures have helped me learn 7 important lessons, not only about botany, but more so about being a better team facilitator or leader. Lesson One: Respect the citizens who are there, no matter what. When I run into those well entrenched and therefore seemingly unfriendly denizens of an organization on a team, I need to respect them. They probably are there...
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Improving Process Thinking: Are you just saying “throw a strike?”

Improving Process Thinking: Are you just saying “throw a strike?”

It’s spring, and time to think baseball.  It may also be good time to get our processes in better shape, so here’s a story to help you differentiate process thinking from outcome thinking…critical to process improvement. A while back, I was helping a good guy coach. An accountant by profession, it did seem that the scorebook was his favorite piece of equipment, but he was a nice guy and he wasn’t a screamer. (keep that in mind…it sets the tone) In this one game, the coach’s son took to the mound. He was one of the better pitchers in our league, a tall kid with heat and control. But on this day, it would be different. As the first pitch left his hand, I thought to myself “that’s not a strike.” It was low outside, the ump called “ball”. His Dad then provided this advice to the mound. “Throw a strike.” It was said encouragingly, not even sternly. It was just a clear reminder of the desired outcome. I thought jokingly to myself,...
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