The histogram originated outside of lean and Six Sigma, but it has many applications in this area, especially in organizations that rely heavily on statistical analysis. It’s a flexible tool that can be put to various uses, and when used correctly, it can shed a lot of light on the way your operations are running. It’s important as a good leader to familiarize yourself with the possibilities offered by the histogram, and use it whenever appropriate.
1. Identifying the most common process outcome
A quick look at a histogram can immediately reveal what the most common outcome of a process with varying outcomes is. By simply collecting all data related to the final state of the process and organizing it in a histogram, any special trends will quickly become apparent. Of course, things can get complicated when you have a large number of possible outcomes, especially when some of them are grouped up and appear alongside one another commonly.
2. Identifying data symmetry
Sometimes, you will spot trends that lean in two directions simultaneously. A histogram can make it very easy to identify those occurrences and know when your processes are prone to producing symmetrical results in some circumstances. Occasionally, this can prove very useful for optimizing certain types of processes. On the other hand, it can also help you identify possible issues, as sometimes symmetry is not what you expect to see in your results.
3. Spotting deviations
Likewise, a histogram can make it quite obvious when your results are deviating from the expected values. As long as you’ve collected all data points and arranged them appropriately for quick reviewing, you can rely on a histogram to tell you when the results are not moving in the right direction. In fact, if you’re working with a small number of data points, the histogram is easily the most useful tool for spotting oddities and identifying worrying trends. Keeping a list of histograms that have been produced in the course of your work and referring back to it can further make things easy to analyze, as you will additionally know when a deviation is potentially caused by old issues, or by a recent change in your operations.
4. Verifying equal distribution
In some cases, symmetry is exactly what you’re looking for, especially in a process prone to random deviations. If you’re looking to make sure that you have a maximized coverage of your outputs, the histogram can be a very simple tool to go about that. If one of the data points is below its standard norms, this will become apparent very quickly, and you can take appropriate measures to correct the situation. When combined with a historical analysis as we described above, you can gain full control over the variation of your outputs.
5. Spotting areas that require little effort
Last but definitely not least, a histogram can be helpful in determining when you’re wasting too much effort or resources on a specific task. Sometimes, a certain part of your process will not require as much attention as you think it does, and a histogram depicting the current resource allocation can immediately reveal that. Just make sure that you have an adequate overview of how your resources are being allocated and utilized to build the data sets for your histogram, otherwise you might not see the full picture.
By doing this correctly, you can make sure that your resources are going in the right place. As a result, you can take away resources from an area that doesn’t matter too much, and reroute them to part of the process that is currently starved. Eventually, you will reach a point of equilibrium where things are running optimally.