Deming on Management: The Red Bead Experiment

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Guest post by John Hunter, founder of (in 1996).

Dr. Deming used the Red Bead Experiment to clearly and dramatically illustrate several points about poor management practices.

The Red Bead Experiment shows that even though a “willing worker” wants to do a good job, their success is directly tied to and limited by the nature of the system they are working within. Real and sustainable improvement on the part of the willing worker is achieved only when management is able to improve the system.

As with any model this illustration oversimplifies reality but the experiment makes very powerfully points. It is hard to appreciate this without experiencing this directly yourself, but the these links may help you appreciate what can be understood.

YouTube video

Blog posts



Those looking for their own kit, may purchase a Red Bead Experiment kit from the Deming Collaborative.

This is the third of a series of posts that will provide resources for those interested in particular topics related to W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on management. Previous posts: PDSA cycle and psychology.

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