Stu Hunter Discussing Bill Hunter, Statistics for Experimenters and EVOP

Posted on August 27, 2013  Comments (1)

In this clip, Stu Hunter talks about Bill Hunter (my father, and no relation to Stu Hunter), Statistics for Experimenters and EVolutionary OPerations (EVOP).

Stu mentions Bill Hunter’s work with the City of Madison, which started with the First Street Garage (Out of the Crisis included a short write up on this effort by Dad, which, I believe, was the first application of Deming’s ideas in the public sector).

There was also a great deal of work done with the Police department, as the police chief, David Couper, saw great value in Deming’s ideas. The Police department did some great work and David’s blog shares wonderful ideas on improving policing. I don’t think Dad was that directly involved in what happened there, but it is one of the nice benefits of seeding new ideas: as they take root and grow wonderful things happen without any effort on your part.

As to why Dad got involved with the city, he returned from a summer teaching design of experiments and quality improvement methods in China (this is just before China was really open, a few outsiders were let in to teach). We had also lived overseas several other times, always returning to Madison. He decided he wanted to contribute to the city he loved, Madison, and so he talked to the Mayor about helping improve performance of the city.

The mayor listened and they started with a pilot project which Dad work on with Peter Scholtes. Dad talked to Peter, who he had know for years, and who worked for the city, before talking to the mayor. Read more about the efforts in Madison via the links at the end of this post.


I imagine those in authority in university towns often get professors offering to help by helping others apply their ideas. Most of the time I image those offers are not actually implemented (and those in authority around the city probably get tied of “crackpot” ideas from the university professors). I know Dad also talked to the football coach several times about becoming more unpredictable (and therefore harder to defend) by choosing plays randomly (from a selected list of appropriate plays). He was never able to convince him to try it.

He also had ideas for the basketball coach but I can’t remember if he ever was able to offer the suggestions. I remember his opinion (which has become much more popular recently, as people have really used data to understand sports) was that talk of players in “hot streaks” (where they are in a “zone” and making baskets more efficiently than normal) was mainly not true (he didn’t look at enough data to say it was never true). Mainly this was a result of people being fooled by variation.

If Dad could have convinced the coaches to use some advanced statistical tools to improve sports performance maybe Moneyball could have discussed Wisconsin Badger national championships instead of the success of the Oakland A’s.

We think “random variation” is much more ordered than it is and we are able to find “patterns” in “random” data – so we can see “hot streaks” where none exists, because we don’t understand variation). Understanding variation is one of the 4 components of Deming’ management system.

Related: George Box’s speech, William Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality ImprovementMore details on the quality improvement efforts in MadisonBetter Management in GovernmentThe Importance of Management ImprovementIntroductory Videos on Using Design of Experiments to Improve Results (with Stu Hunter, in 1966)

By the way, Stu is interviewed by Lynne Hare who received the 1997 William G. Hunter Award. There is a whole series of clips with Lynne interviewing Stu.

One Response to “Stu Hunter Discussing Bill Hunter, Statistics for Experimenters and EVOP”

  1. Taking Risks Based on Evidence » Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog
    December 5th, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

    We often just keep doing what is expected even when the evidence is not there to support the wisdom of such actions. There are lots of things managers should have stopped doing decades ago that they still do. There are lots of things managers should have started doing decades ago that they still don’t do. Evidence based management is still rare…

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