Despite common belief, outliers are not farmers who were out sleeping in their field. If you are a farmer out lying in your field, you are the exception. Outliers are facts, ideas, people, actions, stocks, figures, and data that are outside the norm.

Most everybody likes to be part of the group. They believe there is safety in numbers, that we all hang together or we all hang separately, and that those who do not follow the norms are weird or eccentric or just need to be avoided.

The truth is a little bit different. If you stand with the group, you are not distinguished from everyone else in that group. When massive layoffs come, the company doesn’t need the group. The company needs a core set of people who perform. It’s hard to distinguish that if you’re hiding in the group.

There is much talk today of many job types going to automation.  Everything from journalists to drivers to construction.  If the job you love is in one of these areas, you want to be the outlier that people cannot do without.

Here is what outliers look like on the chart.

Here is a chart of 100 people ranked as to their reputation at work they do.  The mean rating is 55.5.  The average rating is 54.28.  There are actually 22 people from 39 to 45. On the chart between 45 and 54, there are 30 people.  There are 34 people from 55.5 to 63 and 12 people from 64 to 69.

Seeing outliers


Then there are 2 outliers.  The lower one has a 3, and the upper one has a 99.  If I read this and can keep only an employee or 2, who do you think I’m going to keep? Hire the worker with the 99 rating.

If I am a new company or company whose hiring someone, you think I would hire rating number 57 who is hiding in the middle of the pack, or rating number 99 who is setting the pace?  Who would work for you?

If you don’t think that this is going on today or that it is just a fad, go online and do some research. Look at the TEDx talks, also look at the videos on how Amazon is running at Seattle warehouse.

Uber is testing its driver-less cars now in Pittsburgh, and driver-less trucks are doing well in the West. The trucks could be the norm in some states by the end of the year.

Are you not affected? The driver-less truck never needs to stop for coffee, and a driver-less taxi rarely pulls through a fast food drive-through to pick up a meal.  Who else gets touched by this?  There are positives and negatives in everything.

I do not tell you these things to worry you. I look at these things because it is important for you to prepare for what comes next. Even if the only thing you know right now is there will be change, and you should be ready for a change.  Change is overall a good thing.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Start

Have you noticed how hard it is sometimes just to get something started?

Sometimes, it seems, we can sit and look at a problem for hours, days or weeks. Sometimes we can’t stand it, and we have to fix it right away.

I used to wait till everyone else went to bed. I used to wait to rearrange the room, paint the walls or clean the kitchen. I could get more done, I felt, by doing it was no one else around. Unfortunately, my body talks to me now an action such as that it no longer tolerates.

I often wonder why it is that it’s so hard to get started, and much easier to keep going when something is started. I look back to the physics of motion. It takes much more energy to start an object into motion than it takes to keep it in motion. You would not think that that would be true of the mind, and yet the mind is connected to a physical body. That connection makes it totally plausible.

This weekend I think I found, if not the answer, at least an answer that works for me. And of course, like Pavlov’s dog, it deals with action and reward. To answer your question no I did not salivate, and my reward was not dog food. Nor did I sit around waiting to hear a bell.

This weekend, I cleaned rooms, did laundry, straighten the place up, and other chores. As a reward, I worked on one of my many paintings that sat for years waiting for attention. The Canvas is an old under-painting of a part of the Grand Canyon with echoing  walls. I had always wanted to work on it and complete it, and time was never there. As a reward, I sat down for an hour and started painting on it. Changing the sky, starting thunderclouds and rain, and even dropping in part of the golden orange background as the sun is sets.

We know that we are social creatures, creatures of desire, and creatures who do like work and rewards. The painting, as a reward, did not cost me anything. I had all the resources. I know that within that hour of work I now have three new mistakes on the canvas I need to fix. And, I also know that I have five dollars in my pocket that say this thing will never hang in the Louvre. Nevertheless, it was the happiest hour I had in some time. Because after a decade, I started painting again.

What are your rewards? They do not have to require expenses, and quite often the simplest things mean more. What did you used to love to do that you don’t anymore? And, what would you do to have that experience again? If you figure that out, you now know your true motivators.

It is the motivators that get things done.

The Vibration of the Atom and the Tick of the Second Hand

Hope everybody’s doing well today.

One thing, we can all agree, is that time is precious. We cannot manufacture more time, and we can’t dispose of time. Time is a constant. Is time relative? Yes, I believe it is.

Time can be measured through the vibration of an atom, the orbits of the solar system and the movement of the stars within our galaxy. What is a lifetime to us, as humans, is an almost insignificant time on a galactic scale. The time it takes us to make a full rotation within the Milky Way is almost unfathomable.  And yet through all this, the vibration of the atom and the tick of the second hand keep a steady beat.

So what do we do with this wonderful thing called time? To devise ways to go forward or backward within time would seem to be a waste. For our time would keep moving steadily forward while we either try to understand the debates about what went on before us, or what will happen to us later.

I think we get the idea of doing this because of our driven desire for voyeurism. Before you get too excited, I challenge you to think. We go to the movies or sit in front of a TV (or laptop,) where we watch wonderful shows: romance, horror, thrillers, science fiction, comedy, or tragedy. When we watch this, we sometimes have a feeling of having accomplished something or done something based on the show we watched

Truth be told, all we have really done is sit in a seat, and maybe eat some candy or popcorn. We were entertained by somebody else pretending to do something. We did not kiss the lady or the man, climbed the Matterhorn, go to the bottom of the sea, or to strange new worlds. The people in the movie did not do that either, they merely pretended to.

Time is precious, and I am not against movies or television or film clips on the computer. I just wonder sometimes if I could not spend my time a little better by doing some of that for myself.

What would it be like for me to ride or drive a race car? What it would be like for me to fly in a fighter jet? Or jump out of a plane? Or even better, interact with others?

What would it be like for me to interact with others and help to make their lives better? Can I do that sitting in my easy chair watching a rectangular screen? I don’t think so.

I live in a house with just two occupants and very few visitors. If I want to interact with others, have fun, or do some things for myself rather than sitting and watching other people pretend to do it, I need to move out of the comfort zone that I have developed and venture into a new realm called, “outside the house.”

My challenge to myself for the next week is to go out for a walk every day. To meet a neighbor, or talk to a pet in the neighborhood (I talk to the dogs next door.) 

The dogs next door were snarly in barking when they first moved in. I did not approach them, I just talked to them across the fence. Within about 2 ½ weeks they went from being the fierce defenders of the home to a pair of pups jumping up with paws on the fence and looking to get a scratch on the head. I recommend starting out by just talking.

I know it seems as though I’m talking about things that are distractions. Things that take away time from other needs or duties. Yet, you may be surprised. That daily walk may give you a new and vigorous strength, make you feel good, help the body out a little bit, and although the clock keeps ticking and the atom keeps vibrating, you may find yourself more productive with the time you do have.

Just one person’s thought.

Hope to be with you again next week.

Pareto Chart

Hi, there this is Mike.

I want to thank everybody who wrote in earlier this week and answered my three questions. The more I know about what you are looking for, the easier it is for me to develop the content you like and can use.

We plan to double down on the things you like while improving some of the ways we deliver the content. Just because I’m not asking every day what you like or don’t like and what you can use or cannot use, does not mean that we’re not interested. As you find entries that are useful, please let us know. If you find things you can do without, that’s even more important for us to know.

I know some people are concerned because they’re afraid if they make a comment, they will end up on my mailing list somewhere.  I’d make everybody this promise, “I will never put anyone on a mailing just because they commented on one of my blogs.”

If you would wish to be on my mailing list, please let me know. Otherwise, reading and commenting on the blog will not put you on a mailing list. This is a promise between friends, me and you.

As promised, today we are looking at a real Pareto chart.  I was going to use a computer build line to show it.  I thought it would be better if I used SAM and his scenario as the backdrop for this.  We all know about SAM’s work.

SAM has been keeping a tick sheet with the number of each type of problem he encountered.  This was before everything got fixed last week.  The tick sheet looked like This:


Problem Occurrences Tic marks
Car will not start 6 XXXXXX
Lost car keys 10 XXXXXXXXXX
Saw snakes 2 XX
Had to borrow money 1 X
House over 80° 1 X
Total 20


Once SAM collected these numbers, then he could make the Pareto chart. You often hear that the Pareto chart shows where 20% of your problems cause 80% of your work

Rear Real Pareto

The chart shows us what to tackle first to get rid of the biggest hitters. Very small numbers are showing minutia. Minutia is a word for all those little bitty annoyances, they don’t cause the big problems and fixing them won’t fix the big problems. That’s why we use the Pareto chart so we can identify and fix the largest problems first.

Once those problems are fixed, guess what, the smaller problems have moved up to be the largest of the problems. This is presuming another unknown large problem has not shown itself yet. And once the medium and smaller problems are now our top problems, we can turn attention to those and fix those also. We don’t leave problems unfixed, we just fix them in order.

I hope this helps.  Tomorrow I will have a new article, and next week I will start a story that is told in graphics and pictures.

Have a great day.

I Would Like to Ask You 3 Questions

Hi everyone,

Hope you are doing well.  I attended a couple of classes last week and did a lot of research and learned a lot.  To make sure I am delivering the type of blogs you would like, I would like to ask you to answer 3 questions.

You can answer them in the comments, and it is a very short set of questions.

  1. Does what I write interest you?
  2. Do you prefer lessons, papers or articles?
  3. What is your favorite topic(s)?

Please use the comments section send your answers.  In the meantime, I will keep sending a mixture of old delivery systems with some new ideas and twists.



This is why

Thank you for joining us again. We are glad to have you here with us today.

This week we have been working on how to wrangle an overwhelming set of larger-than-life problems into a set of easily workable solutions.

As you seen over the last few weeks, this is absolutely possible. It starts when you admit there are problems, you do an affinity diagram to get an idea of the total landscape concerning the processes. Create a cause-and-effect chart so that you can see the causes that are happening right now and you see the effect you’re having right now. Knowing now the effect that you have and the effect that you want to have, which are probably two different things, you can now look at what causes you might be able to change to make the effect better.

Next thing you want is real data. If you remember, earlier we were working on the home front and as such using some anecdotal information. In business and home efforts, the more data you can gather, the better your efforts are going to be to correct and improve concerns.

In business, we find ways to place measurements on those things we are concerned about. It can be as simple as somebody doing a process and keeping a tic sheet of problems. The measurement could be as elaborate as automated or semi-automated shop floor data collection systems that gather information every time a unit is moved from one location to another, or as critical parts are added. Shop floor data collection system (SFDC) works great for business.

An example of how the SFDC system helped me to find and correct a problem on the assembly line when people from the line started coming to me one day and telling me that there were big problems. They said everything was the moving slow and there were many units that had to be reworked due to poor workmanship and scratched parts.

The first thing I did was pull up the data on the computer. The data showed me that there had only been two items that had to be reworked. One was a screw that was not properly seated, and the other was a cable that was not properly plugged-in. There was no mention of scratches.What worried me though was a line that was supposed to put out 50+ units in an hour, only about 17 units per hour were being completed and packed.

I had been on the line at shift change that morning, and everything looked fine then. That was just three hours ago. I went back out to the production line, and yes it was backed up. I started going station to station to and asking people how things were. In short time, I found out that the quality technician at the end of the assembly line was finding many build problems. The quality technician was trying to make the line look better, so rather than reporting the problems in the SFDC system, was repairing all the problems rather than sending them to rework.

I got with a line supervisor and had the line stop for a quick meeting. I explained everybody why it is important to everyone involved that we use the system correctly and that we actually record all problems and record all repairs. I also explained that the reason for the use of that system was so that I could actually see the problems that were happening on the line. I could quantify them, and then I could change the processes to eliminate the causes of those problems. I also had to explain everybody that when they log such problems they were not getting themselves or anyone else in trouble. They were actually doing what was required and what the engineering department needed to make the processes better and easier for them to use and make everyone’s job easier.

After that, I got better data and was able to design much better processes which allowed for higher quality and easier assembly.

I have also had times where people came in and complained that every other screw was not inserted properly. Going out and doing spot checks on the line, I found out that the shop floor data collection system was correct. Only two screws had been not fully seated, and everything else was fine. A couple people on the line were just having a bad day. I talked with them and was able to let them vent their frustration (which were personal, and not about the build), and then they were able to complete their shift without having the concerns, which really weren’t there to start with. In both cases, without eyes on the line and the shop floor data to show what was real and what was not, as the engineer I would not have been able to make the right calls and build the right processes.

In the first scenario that we looked at wrong data would have led to a poor status quo because the processes would not have changed. In the second scenario, having the correct information allowed us to keep processes that were working, and identify and fix the true concerns.

This is why we will also go back and look at the Pareto chart in other uses. I will give you ideas for how it can work at work and how it can work at home.

Before I leave you today, I need to ask a favor. This favor is to help me to better help you. The question is, are these posts on quality and process improvement something you want to learn? Or do you want to learn something else?

I ask you this because I’m taking two courses this week (yes, teachers take a lot of courses.) We are at the part of the course where we are ensuring that the classes we write are classes wanted by the folks who read us. If there’s something else, you would rather learn, please let me know. I would be more than glad to write on those topics also. If you have any thoughts or ideas, please let us know in the comments section on the blog. I will contact you and try to make other subjects happen.

Thank you for reading this today and thank you in advance for your thoughts, ideas, and comments.


The Problem Ranking and Planned Fix Chart

Welcome back we’re glad to have you with us again. If you’re new, we are glad to have you too.

We are looking at various ways we can use process improvement tools in our daily life. If this is your first time joining us, or you joined recently, you may wish to look back at the blogs from June 5 and coming forward. It will give you a better idea of what we are doing.

Yesterday I talked with SAM, and he added to his list. It is below in the form of a chart, and we will get to it in a few minutes. First, though, I need to tell you that what we are going to do today is a highly modified Pareto chart. Pareto charts are usually built on data rather than just anecdotal information.  After we do this for the home, I will also (next week) make a Pareto chart for a work situation so you can see the difference.

For now, how can we take the every day and add quantifying data? It’s not as difficult as it seems. Let’s look at the problems, and next to them (in the chart below) we will add some data I was able to glean for some of them. Remember antidotal problems are still problems. Fixing problems is just easier when you can measure them.

Here are the concerns and what SAM has told me:

  • SAM said that there were snakes in the yard and it was too hot to cut. When I talked to him, he said they had seen eight snakes in the last month. We have data we can use.
  • In winter, there is little heat in the house. We moved that statement to down the list. SAM said it barely gets over 60° in the house during some storms. Now we have data and identification of a health risk due to possible hypothermia. Yet right now it is summer.

I think you get the idea on finding some data for measurements.  There were talks and discussions. The same friends who helped with the affinity chart came over and helped them to think of ideas on how to rank the problems and cure them. For where they were, and what was going on, everyone it is agreed it would be okay to ask for little support.

Talking to others is great. A few neighbors, worried about the lot volunteered to help the next Saturday. Another neighbor had a good mechanic who needed some copywriting done for ads he wanted to run. SAM is working to be a writer. A trade of services could greatly reduce the costs of getting the car fixed. The mechanic got ads, and SAM got to work on a project with his writing skills.

The landlord was invited over for fried chicken dinner that was supplied by SAM, his wife, and his mother-in-law. The landlord appreciated the good-looking lot. All the noise created by everyone working (and being very careful) and making a lot of noise scared away the snakes.

Talking to the landlord, the idea of saving money on the water bill was viewed as a great idea, and he personally came over the next week and replaced all the washers in all the faucets.

Below is the chart that shows the ranked problem areas, the measurement, and the fixes.  As I said this is not the normal use of a Pareto, and I will show you a regular Pareto chart in action, next week.  For now, we will call this chart ‘The Problem Ranking and Planned Fix Chart’

Problem Ranking Problem Data Fix
1 SAM said that there were snakes in the yard and it was too

hot to cut.

Saw eight snakes in the last month. In the early morning next Saturday, the group of neighbors who found out about this problem while talking to SAM will come over and have a house party to help them cut the yard and fix the place up. We thank SAM’s mother-in-law for talking to friends and helping to get this started.
2 Car needs to be fixed Car failed 3 times in one month The car failed to start three times in the last month. That is the problem and the data. This moves to number two on the list. It is now July, and the house heater has until November when it will be truly needed. Lack of transportation isolates people.
3 Money in is less than money out. Income per month is $1500, and pay out to bills is $1750 School debt, minimum-wage, and credit card debt can be put into one item. Money needs are not supported by the wages earned. Add up to everything that must be paid in the month and all the monies that are brought in in a month. If the income is less than the payments required, there is the data.
4 SAM and his wife needing jobs better jobs Quality of life and ability to meet each person’s potential We combined both into one item. This is not a matter of “Gee, I don’t want to work,” it is a matter of them fulfilling their potential. They cannot quit and hold. However, they can seek and find.  With the car fixed, they found good jobs in a medium sized city, just a 15 mile drive each way.
5 House too hot in summer Uncomfortable Their next-door neighbor had 2 fans in the attic doing nothing.  These were loaned to SAM and his wife
6 Too cold in the winter Health Hazard The landlord had the heater inspected, and all the vents cleaned.
7 Poor shopping choices considering the income Too Costly An agreement to stay within a set meal budget was agreed to, and a garden was planted in the now snake free yard.
8 Being overwhelmed Too many problems with not enough ideas SAM and his wife learned many good skills from their friends studying process improvement.  Those skills now serve them at home and at work.
9 Cranky Landlord Scary Everyone responds well to positive communication, collaboration, and a great fried chicken meal.

We will continue tomorrow with how data can help show a hidden factory.

Have a great Day.