Ron Snee speaks at the third annual W.L. Gore Lecture Series in Management Science presentation.

Gore lecture

Business leaders talk about importance of statistics in professional success

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8:31 a.m., May 2, 2013--Individuals and corporations that hope to be successful must become adept in statistical thinking and should be knowledgeable of statistical systems, Ron Snee and James M. Lucas told attendees at the third annual W.L. Gore Lecture Series in Management Science presentation held on Tuesday, April 23, in Clayton Hall on the University of Delaware’s Laird campus. 

The series, hosted by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and sponsored by an endowment from the Gore family, annually recognizes the role probability, statistics and experimental design have played in the success of W.L. Gore and Associates Inc.

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Snee, the president of business process improvement firm Snee Associates LLC, spoke on the topic “Statistical Thinking -- Improving the Effectiveness of Analytical Studies.” He said although the point of the discussion was to delve into the topic of statistics, it was also important to remember Bill Gore and the role he played at the University and in his corporation.

According to Snee, one of the lesser known but major contributions Gore made was to author Statistical Methods for Chemical Experimentation, the first statistics book aimed at the chemical industry, complete with statistical tools that remain relevant to this day. 

“The American Society of Equality defined statistical thinking as a philosophy of learning and action based on three fundamental principles: that all work occurs in a system of interconnected processes; variation exists all around; and understanding and reducing variation is the key to success,” said Snee.

This variation of statistical data often causes worry for those who work in the field but putting the principles together causes effective statistical methods, said Snee. 

“A very important piece that has not received enough attention in our view is the process,” said Snee. “The process has generated the data, the measurement process as well as the operating process. It’s the process that provides the context.”

Following Snee, Lucas, principal of J.M. Lucas and Associates, a consulting firm in statistics and quality management, discussed the subject of “Statistical Systems” and highlighted the Strategy of Experimentation (SOE) and Product Quality Management (PQM) systems. 

Lucas, who was a senior consultant at DuPont’s Quality Management and Technology Center for over 20 years, is currently a fellow of the American Statistical Association and of the American Society for Quality. 

He said he has always taken a systems approach to problems that have a statistical aspect, much like large corporations like DuPont solve systems issues using statistical techniques. 

Lucas said his research has been focused on the strategy of experimentation, something DuPont has also taken an interest in. He said DuPont has also begun to put an emphasis on Six Sigma, a set of tools and strategies for process improvement originally developed by Motorola in 1985. 

“I credit chemical engineering for actually developing and thinking about the statistical approach,” Lucas said. “That caused the development of statistics groups like DuPont in the 1960s and they tie together the statistical techniques to solve important business problems.”

Article by Rachel Taylor

Photos by Duane Perry

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