On Twitter today I was getting more than 30 times the notifications I normally get. So I took a look to see what is going on. One of my tweets was getting retweeted and liked quite a lot (nearly 100 times each, so far). I figure most likely someone with many more followers than I must have retweeted it.
A bit more investigation and sure enough that is what happened. Marc Andreessen had retweeted it. He has 432,000 followers (a bit more than my 1,600).
This minor internet enabled connection with fame is one of the fun aspects of the internet (to me anyway, I might be a bit odd). I emailed Tim Berners Lee (the creator of the world wide web) a long time ago (probably about 15 years – and I still remember) and received a nice reply. I have written a few posts on my science and engineering blog about his work over the years including a short post on the first web server (Tim’s NeXT computer).
For those that don’t know NeXT is the computer company Steve Jobs headed in between his stints at Apple. In 1999, I was giving a presentation at a conference on Using Quality to Develop an Internet Resource (link to my paper for the talk was based on). I was working for the Office of Secretary of Defense, Quality Management Office at the time. In cutting the time down I eliminated saying that the internet was created by the Department of Defense and giving a few sentences on that history as I figured everyone knew that history. After my presentation, one of the people that came up to talk and somehow I mentioned that history and the 3 people standing there didn’t know it and were surprised. Anyway that NeXT comment reminded me of that story…
Several people responded that we will never see this in use (based on the idea that announcements of research breakthroughs often fail to deliver). Quite a few people we looking forward to the day when it would be available though. Including some that were sitting in the dentist office while they were reading about it.
Another quote by Dr. Deming might give you a clue? “Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge.”
Irwin, the porcupine at the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center has to work a little harder for his breakfast in this clip. The wildlife center likes to provide animals in captivity puzzles and challenges to keep them interested in their environment so they stuck his breakfast to the bottom of the mug.
Thankfully the baby porcupine in the video doesn’t ruin anything and instead just gives us an enjoyable video. He does spends a great deal of energy putting forth his best efforts, but without a theory 🙂 Best efforts can often cause damage to the organization when people give their best efforts but are not guided by knowledge of what is useful and what is harmful.
Another Deming Quote: “We are being ruined by the best efforts of people who are doing the wrong thing.” Please share your comments on how organizations are ruined by best efforts.
And I will wrap up the post with another quote from Dr. Deming: “We want best efforts guided by theory.”
A bit of fun from Dilbert. I have had the exact experience Dilbert does of tech support refusing to think about the actual symptoms of the problem and insisting on following some script and wasting my time – repeatedly. The second act takes on another time waster with a management tip from Dogbert: “Always postpone meetings with time wasting morons.” Dogbert hasn’t quite adopted the respect for people principle.
Infusing his entire presentation with humor and fascinating tales of his memories, Box focused on sequential design of experiments. He attributed much of what he knows about DOE [design of experiments] to Ronald A. Fisher. Box explained that Fisher couldn’t find the things he was looking for in his data, “and he was right. Even if he had had the fastest available computer, he’d still be right,” said Box. Therefore, Fisher figured out how to study a number of factors at one time. And so, the beginnings of DOE.
Having worked and studied with many other famous statisticians and analytic thinkers, Box did not hesitate to share his characterizations of them. He told a story about Dr. Bill Hunter and how he required his students to run an experiment. Apparently a variety of subjects was studied [see 101 Ways to Design an Experiment, or Some Ideas About Teaching Design of Experiments]
According to Box, the difficulty of getting DOE to take root lies in the fact that these mathematicians “can’t really get the fact that it’s not about proving a theorem, it’s about being curious about things. There aren’t enough people who will apply [DOE] as a way of finding things out. But maybe with JMP, things will change that way.”
George Box is a great mind and great person who I have had the privilege of knowing my whole life. My father took his class at Princeton, then followed George to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (where Dr. Box founded the statistics department and Dad received the first PhD). They worked together building the UW statistics department, writing Statistics for Experimenters and founding the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement among many other things.
Statistics for Experimenters: Design, Innovation, and Discovery shows that the goal of design of experiments is to learn and refine your experiment based on the knowledge you gain and experiment again. It is a process of discovery. If done properly it is very similar to the PDSA cycle with the application of statistical tools to aid in determining the impact of various factors under study.
Various techniques are used to ensure a quality (no red bead) product. There are quality control inspectors, feedback to the workers, merit pay for superior performance, performance appraisals, procedure compliance, posters and quality programs. The foreman, quality control, and the workers all put forth their best efforts to produce a quality product. The experiment allows the demonstration of the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the various methods.
You have done pretty well when you can get people to post your ads on their blogs for the enjoyment of their readers. Enjoy this creativity and have a nice weekend.
While on sports I also will mention Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt’s performances in the Olympics: they were amazing. In contests (100 and 200 meter dash where the victor is usually a few hundreds of a second faster he won the 100 by 20/100s and 200 by 66/100s officially [52/100 but that runner and the next were disqualified for running outside of their lanes]). Both were new world records.
5 June 2005 Dilbert Strip on motivational posters – [update – well the pointy haired bosses running the site removed the page so we removed the link] New update the phb has been overthrown. Here is the strip:
The point of that poster is your spirit should soar like an eagle while you continue to do mundane work
Dilbert can show the silliness that is common place in many workplaces, as just that – silly. Point 10 of Deming’s 14 points called on management to eliminate slogans. Deming refined the wording as he learned: the text from the Deming Institute site (another site broke their link, so it was removed) now states:
Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets asking for zero defects or new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
That text works well for me, but I think Dilbert provides a great service in pointing out the same idea that such slogans are silly and even harmful in a way many others find more accessible. Of course most managers don’t seem to notice when Dilbert points out that a management “tool” they use lacks value – that the “emperor has no clothes” (The Emperor’s New Suit by Hans Christian Andersen, 1837).