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Steven Ouellette

Six Sigma

You Might be a Black Belt if…

Oh, the perils of mastering Six Sigma

Published: Monday, October 19, 2009 - 05:00

I'm not saying that the following apply to you... really. But, you might be a Black Belt if...

  • You test your co-workers for normality – and find some of them to be non-normal and a little skewed…
  • …and you know you can handle non-normal co-workers if you can just transform them
  • You recall that Anderson-Darling (the youngest brother of Wendy, Michael, and John) did not go to Neverland, being firmly rooted in normalcy
  • You used forced pairwise consensus ranking to name your kids (I so totally did this)
  • You keep giving homework to your kid’s math teachers (guilty here too)
  • You get into arguments with people doing telephone surveys about the validity of their sampling and survey question construction
  • You “strongly agree” that you would never take the average or standard deviation of ordinal or nominal data, like the Likert scale
  • Your mixing spoons are traced and hung up on pegboards—a place for everything and everything is in its place
  • You know that correlation is not causation, even though you still can’t say it without sounding snooty

  • When someone says, “DOE” you think of “experimental design” instead of the “Department of Energy”
  • You know that quality is defined as the “reduction of variability around a customer-defined target”* and not “What the heck, it’s in spec”
  • You know that define, analyze, improve, control is a good template to follow when faced with a problem with no known solution, albeit inefficient if a strategy to fix the problem is known
  • You know that low-hanging fruit is good, but that to reach the higher, sweeter fruit you have to use some advanced techniques*
  • You know when to use a team…and when not to
  • You get it (even if you don’t think it’s funny) when someone tells you that Bobby Brown invented the “Mann-Whitney U look good” test
  • You know that Kolmogorov-Smirnov is not a brand of vodka*
  • You know that the median test is not used to determine if a driver is intoxicated
  • You know that the runs test is not related to a bad burrito
  • You know that rather than focusing on quality, which may result in improving profitability, you should focus on profitability, which might lead to improvements in quality*
  • You know that showing financial results are critical
  • You know that if a product or service loses you money, you can’t make it up in volume*
  • You recognize that most businesses have a high percentage of their revenue come from customers* and so there is a reason to investigate and understand what they value
  • You know the link between the t-test and Guinness stout
  • You teach the 5S’s, yet make very sure none of your students see your garage
  • You wince every time someone mentions that odious Disraeli quote about lies and damned lies
  • You step on the punch line of that quote and yell out, “..and people who misuse statistics.”
  • You know that there are three types of quality, and that without design, conformance, and process management quality, your business is in danger
  • You know that a company that executes an OK plan very well wins over a company that poorly executes a great plan
  • You know that, while driving fear into an organization can be fun and entertaining, it tends to result in poor performance and lost money†
  • You know that about 90 percent of the problems in a process are not due to the workers in the process, but due to the managers who manage the process†
  • You know that special causes, left unattended, become common to the processes†
  • You ask your kids, “Why?” five times when they are past curfew
  • You know that Weibulls wobble, but they don’t fall down*
  • You look honestly confused when, after telling someone that you are a Black Belt, they start talking about how they always wanted to take karate
  • You ask the salesperson about alpha and beta error when buying a pregnancy test
  • You see opportunities for experimental design in the boudoir (“Now honey, you have to admit that was statistically significant!”)
  • You know that statistical significance can be way different than practical importance*
  • You have an SPC chart on your bedside table (“See honey, I am in control.”)
  • You know that being in statistical control is not necessarily the same as giving your customers what they want*

And a bonus section

You might be a Master Black Belt if…

  • You know that just because a project would have benefits, it is not necessarily the most beneficial project you can work on*
  • You know that a company working solely on eliminating dissatisfaction is not working on increasing customer delight‡
  • You know that increasing production speed on a process that loses you money with every unit might just lose you more money faster*
  • You know that there are pearls of wisdom everywhere—maybe even in a silly “You might be a…” list.


*Derived from something my former boss and colleague Dr. J. Luftig said
†Derived from something his colleague, Dr. W.E. Deming said
‡Derived from something Dr. J. Juran said
All the rest, I take full blame for.  Hope you enjoyed them.  Please feel free to add more in the comments section!


About The Author

Steven Ouellette’s picture

Steven Ouellette

Steve Ouellette, ME, CMC started his career as a metallurgical engineer. It was during this time that his eyes were opened to find that business was not a random series of happenings, but that it could be a knowable enterprise. This continues to fascinate him to this day.

He started consulting in 1996 and is a Certified Management Consultant through the Institute for Management Consulting. He has worked in heavy and light industry, service, aerospace, higher education, government, and non-profits. He is the President of The ROI Alliance, LLC. His website can be found at steveouellette.com.

Steve has a black belt in aikido, a non-violent martial art, and spent a year in Europe on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship studying the “Evolution, Fabrication, and Social Impact of the European Sword."




The average person has one

The average person has one testicle and one breast!!!

Humour: a balanced model for statistics

Thanks Steve! I appreciate quality "one-liners" immensely. I do tend to mix them in with the stats courses I teach. Much of the credit must go to the doctor of stats - Dr. J. Luftig. Everything he taught me I would consider signficant and important. Here are a few "one-liners" I have to offer.

You might be a black belt if …

•Your first answer to every statistical question is “It depends”.
•You know you’re experienced enough to “eyeball the data” even though you were taught not to.
•You even use SPC to find your soulmate (Strategic Partner Choosing). You assess his/her ability to remain in control through time. Once that is confirmed and you make sure they’re normal, you then assess his/her ability to be a capable spouse.
•You can spell “homoscedasticity” correctly.
•You dare to talk statistics with your spouse and kids and they tell you that the probability of you getting ‘bopped” with one is high.
•When teaching statistical reliability, “Wei…bull”, when you can tell the truth.
•You tell someone that if they stick their head in the freezer and their feet in the oven, they should feel great on average.
•You demonstrate your concern for environmental control by using the Seagull-Turkey and Kruskal-Walrus as paired tests. (Siegel-Tukey, Kruskal-Wallis)
•You can generate random numbers in your head just as well as the computer.
•You understand that statisticians who develop hypothesis tests always work in pairs so they at least have an alternative to present if their work is null and void.

Nice ones BGGRAHAM!

I tried to get QD to use "The Homoscedastic Agenda" for one of my articles, but they quite properly put the kibosh on that! Cracked me up, though...

Thanks for the laugh!

I laughed so hard about the 'run test' that I'm fearful I'll never be able to keep a straight face should the topic ever come up in the workplace. You have a great sense of humor with a topic that can be somewhat dry at times.

Sandra Gauvin

Thanks Sandra! ;-)


A statistician is an

A statistician is an accountant without the charisma.

A couple of months in the laboratory can frequently save a couple of hours in the library.

Theory and practice are the same in theory. In practice they are different.

The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.
On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.
The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.
The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.
Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It's speaking English that kills you.

Algebraic notation is what you write when you don't know what you're talking about.
(annonymous student)

Without geometry, life is pointless.

The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

The latest survey shows that 3 out of 4 people make up 75% of the world's population.

Every day, innumeracy affects 8 out of 5 people.

There are liars, outliers, and out-and-out liars.

A mathematician, an applied mathematician, and a statistician all apply for the same job. At the interview, they are asked the question, what is 1+1.
The mathematician replies, "I can prove that it exists but not that it is unique."
The applied mathematician, after some thought, replies, "The answer is approximately 1.99, with an error in the region of 0.01."
The statistician steps outside the room, mulls it over for several minutes, and eventually returns in desparation and inquires, "So what do you want it to be?"

A hungry man went into a restaurant and noticed that the daily special was rabbit burgers (a real delicacy) for only .49 cents a burger. He asked the waiter about it and was told that, to keep prices down, they did add some filler, namely horse meat.
Customer: How much of each kind of meat is in a burger?
Waiter: An equal amount of each: one horse and one rabbit.

Did you hear about the statistician who put her head in the oven and her feet in the refrigerator ?
She said, "On average, I feel just fine."

Statistics means never having to say you're certain.

Two statisticians were flying from L.A. to New York. About an hour into the flight, the pilot announced, "Unfortunately, we have lost an engine, but don't worry: There are three engines left. However, instead of five hours, it will take seven hours to get to New York."
A little later, he told the passengers that a second engine had failed. "But we still have two engines left. We're still fine, except now it will take ten hours to get to New York."
Somewhat later, the pilot again came on the intercom and announced that a third engine had died. "But never fear, because this plane can fly on a single engine. Of course, it will now take 18 hours to get to New York."
At this point, one statistician turned to another and said, "Gee, I hope we don't lose that last engine, or we'll be up here forever!"

If you want three opinions, just ask two statisticians.

Did you know that the great majority of people have more than the average number of legs?
It's obvious, really: Among the 57 million people in Britain, there are probably 5,000 people who have only one leg. Therefore, the average number of legs is

And since most people have two legs....

Q: How many statisticians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One—plus or minus three.

A stats major was completely hung over the day of his final exam. It was a true/false test, so he decided to flip a coin for the answers. The stats professor watched the student the entire two hours as he was flipping the coin...writing an answer...flipping the coin...writing an answer. At the end of the two hours, everyone else had left except for that one student. The professor walked up to his desk and interrupted the student.
"Listen, I see you didn't study for this test; you didn't even open the exam. If you're just flipping a coin for answers, what's taking you so long?
The student (still flipping the coin) said, "Shhh! I'm checking my answers!"

Did you hear about the politician who promised that if he were elected he'd make certain that everybody would get an above-average income? (And nobody laughed....)

A famous statistician would never travel by airplane, because he had studied air travel and estimated that the probability of there being a bomb on any given flight was one in a million, and he was not prepared to accept these odds.
One day, a colleague met him at a conference far from home. "How did you get here, by train?"
"No, I flew"
"What about the possibility of a bomb?"
"Well, I began thinking that if the odds of one bomb are 1:million, then the odds of two bombs are (1/1,000,000) x (1/1,000,000). This is a very, very small probability, which I can accept. So now I bring my own bomb along!"

In God we trust. All others must bring data.
Robert Hayden, Plymouth State College

You can find other jokes at Gary C. Ramseyer's First Internet Gallery of Statistics Jokes and from Joachim Verhagen.