Avoiding these 4 things in data spreadsheet column titles, as discussed in the quick (3 minute and 38 second) video below and in this post, will make it easier to analyze the spreadsheet data using programs like R or SAS or importing the spreadsheet data into a database.
(1) Avoid fancy formatting
Avoid fancy formatting in the column headers when the spreadsheet is going to be imported into a program such as R or SAS for analysis.
Fancy formatting such as making words bold, italic, or adding colors can cause errors or even prevent the data from being able to be imported until the formatting is reverted back to plain, unformatted column headers.
Watch the video above to see examples of fancy and plain column headers.
Avoiding using fancy formatting in the first place will save your consultant or analyst time from having to change the formatting back to plain.
(2) Avoid inconsistent naming conventions
Avoid inconsistent naming conventions for titles and also avoid using special characters such as exclamation points(!), asterisks(*), at symbols (@), and other such symbols in the title of the column header.
For one it can be confusing. Also, special characters in the titles can cause errors in analysis or importing the data into a database.
For an example of a spreadsheet using inconsistent naming conventions and special symbols in the column headers watch the video above.
(3) Avoid using really long descriptive titles
Avoid using long descriptive titles with spaces in between the words. Shorter titles are easier to analyze. Some software programs can’t recognize titles that have spaces between the words as variables. This will result in error messages or a failure to import the data.
Shorten the titles using codenames for those variables.
For an example of really long descriptive titles being shortened into code names, watch the video above.
Shortening codenames leads to the 4th thing to avoid in column title headers:
(4) Avoid forgetting to include a code book or some kind of documentation of what code names you shortened the long descriptive titles into
Don’t forget to include a code book or other similar documentation for long descriptive column titles that you’ve shortened the name of.
When working with a team no one else will necessarily know what that code title means and if you don’t document it somewhere, then you may even forget what it was yourself.
By avoiding fancy formatting, inconsistent naming conventions, using really long descriptive titles, and forgetting to include a codebook or other documentation you will make it easier and more efficient to analyze the spreadsheet data using programs like R or SAS or importing the spreadsheet data into a database.
I recently got my Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) through an online course offered by TUM on the edX platform. I admire how the certificate itself and the process of obtaining it was highly efficient, exemplifying the ideas of Lean and Six Sigma, reducing waste and reducing variation in quality improvement.
Lean and Six Sigma are two separate, but related philosophies in the quality improvement and management realm across a variety of different industries. I was first introduced to the concept in the healthcare industry and in the field of public health.
Wanting to further my knowledge and be able to better apply the data and fact driven quality improvement Lean and Six Sigma tools to improve my performance and range of services offered as a consultant, I decided to get certified in Lean and Six Sigma.
I found that an online series of three courses offered by TUM through the edX platform was the most efficient and cost effective way to gain this certification. Online courses allowed me to work my continuing education around my work schedule. Also the cost was low enough to not waste or strain the resources of a fresh, innovative, new consulting agency for providing professional growth and development for its consultants.
I also thought it would be interesting to take online courses from a German university, TUM, with professors from backgrounds in industries, such as manufacturing, that I am not experienced in as I learned of Lean and Six Sigma from a public health and healthcare background, thus providing a different perspective.
Today Lean and Six Sigma are often combined, and I wanted to be able to provide the combined effect that has been shown to reduce costs, improve customer, client or other stakeholder satisfaction with quality control and continuous quality improvement in processes, services, or products in the projects I work on.
Though they are often combined, Lean and Six Sigma are two separate, but related philosophies. It can be useful to differentiate between the two.
Lean focuses on reducing waste while Six Sigma focus on reducing variation, such as variation in a process, product, or service that is out of specification. Variations are often considered to be errors or mistakes, depending on how far out of specification the variation is and how the variation affects the process, service, or product.
My Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification from TUM efficiently lists out and differentiates which topics covered in the series of certification courses I took fall under each umbrella: Lean or Six Sigma. Most professional continuing education certificates do not include such detail, which causes wastes in time or an increased risk of error in understanding what topics were included in the course(s) that the certification was obtained through. The listing out of the topics on my Yellow Belt certificate allows me to easily, efficiently, and with a reduced chance of errors in listing the topic under the wrong umbrella, list them out in the table below if you are curious to learn which umbrella each topic falls under.
Differences between Topics in Lean vs Six Sigma at the Yellow Belt Level
It has taken a longer than expected amount of time to post about getting Lean Six Sigma certified consultant becoming certified at the Yellow Belt level because I have been busy getting Jill + Ian’s bicycle rental service started — a service that Rillian provided research and development for and is now being added as a service provided by of our affiliated businesses, Jill + Ian–and applying Lean Six Sigma principles to the service from the start to improve access to bicycles through a quality focused and innovative bicycle rental service.
However, due to the application of Lean and Six Sigma principles in my photography business, Jillian Regan Photography, LLC, I was able to quickly and efficiently add photos to complement this blog post.
Getting my Lean Six Sigma Yellow belt certification from TUM through the edX platform was an efficient way to improve my performance as a consultant and be able to better offer data driven quality improvement technical assistance and support and consulting to other organizations.
The certificate itself is created to reduce waste and variation by efficiently listing out the topics covered under Six Sigma and Lean and details not normally included on a professional continuing education certificate itself for easy and efficient access and comprehension.
Six Sigma is a quality improvement methodology that organizations in many different fields utilize to improve their organization’s processes and performance.
A systematic way for keeping track of Six Sigma projects is essential to being able to effectively use Six Sigma to improve the processes and performance of the organization. It is also important that this system is standardized throughout the organization and that all employees who will be using it are trained on how to correctly use it.
A good system will include a way to decide if the problem identified is enough a problem to be addressed in a Six Sigma project, before proceeding to conducting a Six Sigma project. In addition there should be a way to track both the impact of the problem and solution on the customer (voice of the customer) as well as on the business (voice of the business). It is important to document attributes of the data that is to be collected, such as if it is ordinal scale or nominal scale, to make it easier to keep track of which types of statistical analysis are appropriate to apply to the data.
One way to have a good system for Six Sigma projects could be to use a software program specifically designed for this, such as SixSigma Guide. SixSigma Guide is a software guide designed specifically for Six Sigma Projects.
The homepage for SoftLogic, with SixSigma guide on the far right and two other software programs on the left and middle.
About SixSigma Guide:
It was created by Dr. Reiner Hutwelker
He is a business consultant,
Master Black Belt in Six Sigma,
and an adjunct professor at Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften München and Management Center Innsbruck in Eresing, Germany.
Note: this software tool does not provide the statistical analytic capabilities needed in most Six Sigma projects, so a statistical software program like R, SAS, Minitab, or Stata can be used for statistical analysis of the data in conjunction with this software tool
Review of SixSigma Guide:
This software is a useful and practical tool, although it may not be the right fit for every organization. It was clearly developed by a Master Black Belt in Six Sigma who used his many years of practical experience in conducting Six Sigma projects as well as in educating future Six Sigma quality improvement professionals. This software is relatively easy to learn how to use for people who are familiar with other software like Microsoft Excel. One of the best things about it is that it walks the user, step by step through the whole Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) cycle. Instead of having all these steps and sub-steps saved in different spreadsheets in folders on a shared drive, with this software, everything can be kept track of in one place.
While it is functional and relatively user friendly, I feel that in order to be more marketable the design of the user interface might need to be enhanced. While it is perfectly functional, people have become used to seeing beautifully designed software programs. Large organizations may also wish to be able to customize it with their logos and branding when implementing it across the organization.
A screenshot of the download page to download the SixSigma Guide software. The option to download the free trial is listed first. Both English and German slides with examples of using the software for a Six Sigma project are linked below the download link.
Another way could be to use a combination of different types of software the organization is currently using, such as Microsoft Excel or Google Docs, combined with a file sharing system, such as a server or cloud based storage solution, such as DropBox, so that all stakeholders who need access to the projects can easily access it.
Whichever systems and software you choose to use, it is essential that it there is a systematic and standardized way of conducting and keeping track of Six Sigma projects across your organization.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you used SixSigma Guide software or a similar software for Six Sigma projects? What do you think about it?
Disclaimer: This is an independent review of software, I am not sponsored in anyway by any of the software companies or individuals listed or reviewed in this article. None of the links are affiliate links. I am just sharing my thoughts about software that could be useful for Six Sigma projects. I learned of this software while taking an online course on Six Sigma, from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany and edX.org, in which Dr. Hutwelker was a guest lecturer.
Jillian Regan, MPH is a consultant at Rillian. She enjoys quality improvement using data to improve processes within the organization, so that the organization can better serve its clients, customers, patients, or others. Connect with her by email at Jillian.Regan@RillianConsulting.com or Twitter (@JillianReganMPH) or LinkedIn.
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