Statistical Tools

Statistical tools: What should I use?

With all the tools available to us nowadays, it’s hard to know which to use.

I’d just started a new assignment and was given the task of understanding what was driving lead time in an IT service centre. DMAIC was the chosen method and there was an expectation that data would be the basis for identifying root cause. There was only one thing for it……I must have Minitab!

What ensued was a battle for funding to acquire the statistical capability that Minitab offers, bringing in tactics such as obtaining a free trial version, showing some measure activity and then pleading with management for a full version to crack on with the analysis.

I never got a copy of Minitab. I did however manage to deliver on the goals of the project without this critical tool that I tried my best to acquire. Would it have changed the outcome? I very much doubt it!

This was several years ago now and experiences such as this have now changed my opinion of the need for this level of statistical wizardry. I have now shed the view that was ingrained in me from previous training at Green Belt and Black Belt level that what I need is Minitab. As a by-product its rendered large parts of my training obsolete as I have walkthrough guides for how to do things in Minitab when I never use Minitab to deliver a project.

So how have I solved this problem?

I’ve learned that for the things I need to be able to do in the environment I work in I can easily use a tool such as Excel. That’s great as it’s everywhere! (I’ve yet to find a workplace that didn’t install it as standard kit).

Minitab and other similar statistical analysis tools are great and I would argue essential in certain situations e.g. working with diameters of wire where the tolerance must be within spec. But in my world, the world of service, it’s not essential, as many a good consultant has proven time and time again.

If you happen to have access to tools such as Minitab then great, you should use them when it’s appropriate. But if you don’t and you’re asking yourself the question “Do I need a heavy duty statistics tool?” you may first want to think about the following:

  1. Will using Minitab change the outcome?
  2. Can I do this with the tools already at my disposal?

As ever I’ve tried my best to use my experience to help others and since built an Excel-based toolkit that can be used to help solve service related problems. This is just one of the elements developed for our Black Belt for Service training course.

And everyone who comes on our course gets a USB packed full of awesome tools and techniques – especially our statistical analysis tools and templates in Excel.