Understanding Variation


An understanding of variation is critical to management decision making. We are constantly surrounded by numbers giving us the current status of the business in terms of profit, sales, cost, safety, environmental compliance, etc. This course is designed to increase managers' understanding of the use of data and to provide them with the necessary tools for differentiating between sources of variation that can be addressed locally (by their employees) and those that will require a management decision for change. The course emphasizes the importance of data integrity, of selecting the appropriate metrics, and of the correct use of data and appropriate strategies to effectively manage in the TQ environment.

Time Requirement

2 days

Number of Participants

25 participants maximum



Primary Resource Materials

Understanding Variation manual and
Understanding Variation — The Key to Managing Chaos by Donald J. Wheeler

Content Outline

  • Selecting Appropriate Metrics
    • Data Validity
    • Guidelines for Selecting Metrics
  • Definition of Variation
    • Common vs. Special Causes of Variation
    • Deming's Red Bead Example
  • Common Mistakes in Reacting to Variability
    • Reacting When They Shouldn't (Tweaking)
    • Using the Average to Describe the Distribution
    • Not Reacting When They Should
  • Correct Use of Data
    • Control Charts
    • Guidelines for Out-of-Control Conditions
    • Reaction Plans
  • Problem-Solving Strategy and Quality Improvement Strategy
    • Difference Between Tools and Strategies
    • Plan-Do-Study-Act
    • Quality Improvement Strategy
    • Problem-Solving Strategy
  • Avoiding the Risk of Suboptimization and Data-based Management Decisions


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Longmont, CO 80504

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