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This Lean blog is dedicated to providing useful Lean information that both changes the way you think about continuous improvement, and gives you tools to act on those changes. It is the only blog backed by The Continuous Improvement Companion, our extensive Lean reference guide.

Control limits are lines established 3 standard deviations from the mean on a control chart. Keep in mind that the control chart depicts averages, so exhibits a normal distribution. (See Central Limit Theorem) 99.7% of all random variation (common cause) will fall within the upper and lower control limits. Outliers can generally be assumed to be outliers, indicating that the process is out of control.

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When a process is said to be ‘in control’, statistically speaking, that means that all the variation can be attributed to common causes. All of the observed variation is just a function of the natural randomness built into a system or process.

In a nutshell, an ‘in control’ process is free of special cause variation.

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A control, or control group is a tool used to confirm whether changes are actually having an effect. The control group is exposed to the same conditions as the test group with the exception of the variable that is being examined.

For example, you may be experimenting whether increasing tire pressure makes a difference in mileage. You would keep all other factors the same (route, vehicle type, brand of gas, etc.) the same for two groups. The only difference would be in tire pressure. The control group would have the current tire pressure, and the test group would have the higher pressure.

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A competitive advantage is a condition through which one organization has to spend fewer resources to get the same benefit as a competitor (or, of course, gets more benefit for spending the same amount of resources.)

This advantage can be because of a perception of higher quality products, because of location, because of the ability to recruit the best workforce, or for any of a multitude of reasons.

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The central limit theorem, in layman’s terms, says that regardless of the shape of the underlying distribution, in most cases, the mean of samples taken from the distribution will approximate a normal distribution.

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Calibration is the process of comparing the measuring capabilities of a piece of equipment to a known standard. In the common vernacular, calibration is thought to include adjustment as well. In reality, calibration and adjustment are two separate processes.

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C-Level executives are the top individuals in an organization’s hierarchical structure. They most common are the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and COO (Chief Operating Officer). There are also frequently c-level executives in charge of marketing or information technology.

Some organizations will even go further and assign a chief to things such as diversity or risk.

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