Vol. 9, No. 8

August 2007

PQ Systems

Fun and games—with statistics?

Quality Quiz: With a video!

Data in everyday life

MSA with Jackie Graham

Bytes and pieces

FYI: Current releases


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Fun and games—with statistics?

Mere mention of statistics may strike fear into the hearts of some aspiring quality professionals—not to mention business students and others who try to live quiet and satisfying lives outside the world of data. Quality Gamebox, a lighthearted approach to statistics, may change all that. In fact, the software program is so much fun that it may become addictive, especially to those who like games.

With this warning, Quality Gamebox offers an audio-visual experience with statistical concepts such as variation, the central limit theorem, systems thinking, X-bar and range, and others. Some of the six games are interactive, while others simply illustrate a concept and show results. The popular program has been updated and expanded, offering even more fun to its users, according to software developer Jeff Aughton.

While clever sound backgrounds are a piece of the picture, the sound can be turned off (if you don’t want your colleagues to know that you’re playing) by checking the options button in each game section. “Quality Quotes” offers a series of quotations from recognized sources; musical accompaniment to this section can be silenced with the speaker icon, or by turning sound off at the main home screen.

Want to play fast? Or just saunter through the games? You can adjust speed in each of the games, even as the simulation is running, so if you want to explain a concept to someone else in slow motion, you can do this—and then speed it up for the summary results if you choose.

Games that introduce concepts popularized by W. Edwards Deming include what is known as the “red bead experiment,” which illustrates the futility of trying to change outcomes without changing a system. “Operators” are threatened, rewarded, fired, etc., as they try to improve the number of white beads selected with a paddle from a box of a thousand or more red beads. Using an np chart (or a p chart), data is displayed that verifies a stable system in spite of what appears to be dramatic variation among operators.

The elusive-sounding central limit theorem is illustrated in Quality Gamebox with two distributions—one normal (green) and one bimodal (red). The game generates sample mean distributions for sample sizes of 1, 2, 5, and 10. A summary sheet superimposes green and red sample mean distributions for each of the sample sizes in the simulation.

A modification to the new release includes replacing a simulation previously done manually, using two decks of cards (green and red). The distribution of cards from aces through tens is illustrated in the software; this option can be selected from the Options button on the central limit theorem home page.

A visually stimulating demonstration of variation and the effect of adjusting a process arbitrarily is offered in the quincunx feature, which releases a large number of beads into a funnel positioned over a series of pins. Each little bead hits a series of these pins and is directed to the bottom, where the accumulated beads—presto!—form a normal distribution. A funnel illustrates the futility of making adjustments to a stable process.  Any adjustments made to compensate for "normal" variation will result in a wider dispersion of the beads at the bottom.

And a funnel is also used in the so-called Deming funnel experiment, which shows the effect of making decisions to tamper with a stable process based on real world logic. The funnel is moved to try to hit a target consistently, but data indicates that these arbitrary moves produce even greater levels of variation.

If you’re going to be playing games, even those related to quality concepts, you’d expect to find dice somewhere, and this is true for Quality Gamebox, where the dice enhance understanding the effect of consistency and number of sequential operations on throughput .  Electronic dice demonstrate consistencies and inconsistencies in the of throughput and inventory control. Electronic dice represent various operations or processes, demonstrating consistencies and inconsistencies in the number of units (dots on the dice) to be transferred to the next process.

Welcome to a western corral, where a shotgun, rifle, and target await you, to illustrate concepts of accuracy and precision. Want a challenge? The rifle, while more accurate in its dispersal than the shotgun, is bent, offering a challenge in knocking the cans off the barn door or hitting the target. For this one, you may want to turn off the gunshot sound if you’re in a busy office.

A PowerPoint collection of some 90 quality quotes will offer inspiration and reinforcement of learning, especially if you happen to be using Quality Gamebox as a teaching tool. (At PQ Systems training seminars, for example, we often run the Quality Quotes program during breaks or as participants gather in the morning.)

If you haven’t had enough fun yet, there’s a special challenge in the program to keep you alert. Quality Gamebox offers a version of the “Fifteen” puzzle, with a picture of Lucy the cat, rather than numbers, on the 15 tiles. Each time you press Start, the tiles are scrambled; a timer will tell you how long it takes you to rearrange the tiles into Lucy’s semblance. (And don’t worry—if you choose not to play the game, Lucy remains unruffled.)

While all of this may seem like way too much fun to be having with statistics, stop every so often and think about what you have learned in these games. You may find that your understanding has deepened or the concepts have become clear enough to explain them to others. (And, after all, you may want to use Quality Gamebox to help with this explaining.)

And we guarantee that Quality Gamebox will not contribute to anyone’s fear of statistics. Learn more.

Copyright 2007 PQ Systems.
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