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Interview of Bill Hunter: Statistical Variability and Interactions

Interview of Bill Hunter on Statistical Variability and Interactions by Peter Scholtes, 1986:

In this interview Bill Hunter describes how results are made up of the impact and interactions of many variables. Many of those variables we don’t know about or account for. What we normally do is try to figure out the most important variables for processes and then experiment with those variables to find the best options given what we are trying to achieve.

Often the description of what is going on in such cases is that there is arbitrary error or random variation that influences the final results. What Bill discusses in this interview is that what is seen as arbitrary or random is often identifiably caused by specific variables. But often we don’t know what those variables are or how they are varying while we are getting different results over time.

He discusses how many research efforts seek to find the most important 2 variables and create a model based on those 2 variables to predict results. Even in PhD level research that is often done. He then discusses how to deal with other important variables.

He discusses the real world problems businesses must face in creating solutions that work.

If they are going to sell the product in Mississippi, and they are going to sell in Arizona and North Dakota, they have to have a robust product that will work in all these different conditions… It is not good enough for them to have a model that works sometimes… they’ve got to probe deeper and learn how relative humidity affects things and build that into the whole system in a different kind of way… they have to try and dig out the effects of these other x’s

So the business has to figure out the impact of many more variables in order to create reliable and robust products and services. This example is about variables that impact the use of the product by a customer, but the same concept applies to processes within your business.
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