Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos is a book I recently re-read. I had remembered it and thought it had some good points. Not for the depth of analysis, most Black Belts will not find it too challenging, but for the examples and flavor of the writing. This book was originally published in 1993.
Marketing needs to do a better job of using statistics and especially variation. When I start talking numbers to people, and what they mean, I get looked at like someone that is just trying to complicate a creative process. Improvement is about numbers. Measurement is about numbers. The truth is, marketing is about numbers. So why not employ more of the Six Sigma methodology? I understand that achieving the quality that Six Sigma represents may be difficult but the principles and tools should, nevertheless be utilized.
Your present marketing data more than likely is flawed and ineffective. Comparing one number to another is just ineffective. Comparison is limited because numbers are subject to variation and without variation taken into account the data is distorted.
Don Wheeler starts his book by saying that comparing numbers to specifications will not lead to improvement. Specifications are the Voice of the Customer. The specification approach will not reveal insights into how the process works and as a result will not tell you where you are, how you got there and how or what to improve to get out of it.
Defining this a bit: Voice of the Customer defines what you want. Voice of the Process defines what you will get from the system. Management job is to bring Voice of Customer in alignment with Voice of the Process.
Don uses examples of Control Charts,X-Charts, XmR Charts and a few other graphs. He does a nice job of mixing practical stories and making a statistical book as easy of a read that it can be. He sums up one story by saying:
- Optimization of the parts does not equal optimization of the whole.
- Traditional cost accountings can hide or miss the essential figures.
- Analysis by osmosis is very ineffective.
- Graphs communicate the data better than the tables.
- It is dangerous to confuse a target value with the voice of the process.
Can you start using proper data in your marketing process? The book recommends starting tomorrow by:
- Begin to collect the right data
- Insist upon interpreting within their context
- Filter out the noise before considering any value as a potential signal
- Cease to ask for explanations of noise
- Understand that no matter how the results may stack up against the specifications, a process which displays statistical control is
performing as consistently as possible.
- Always distinguish between Voice of Custom and Voice of Process.
- Help others take action on assignable causes.
P.S. I typically find that most companies are not ready to start a Six Sigma project because of the lack of measurement in their processes. Having the working knowledge of Black Belt can greatly enhance getting started down the path. It is a journey and depending upon the scope of the project, not one to hastily jump into.
BTW: I recommend reading the book first.