Red Bead Experiment Simulation

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By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog.

Note: The simulation referenced below is no longer available.

I ran across this simulation via a post on an e-learning website. The community has challenges in creating short simulations on various concepts and one of the challenges focused on the red bead experiment: the comments have links to various attempts. Remember, these are created as an exercise by people that don’t necessarily have any experience with Deming’s ideas.

To learn about the lessons of the red bead experiment, I suggest you consult these previous posts (which include videos with Dr. Deming): lessons of the red bead experiment: The Red Bead Experiment with Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

The simulation from Maija Perfiljeva includes some nice graphics and illustrates a bit of what can be learned from the red bead experiment. Do remember the simulations are just an exercise these participants created for fun.

The simulation does also show my prowess at making the best of the system I am put into:

screen shot of Red bead simulation - with foreman congratulating the best worker

As those of you with red bead willing worker experience will know (and the rest of you may have a hard time understanding) I am quite proud of my good results.

screen shot of Red bead simulation, with quote from foreman disappointed in variation in results

I liked how this simple simulation incorporated a few of the lessons of the experiment – such as the variation produced, even with such a fixed and simple process. I would also like to point out my results didn’t vary at all – how often do managers provide feedback to workers that may be true for most workers but just leave some thinking the manager isn’t paying attention to them?

screen shot of Red bead simulation - with quote from foreman that half the workers are below average

This simulation included some nice details, like the silliness of stack ranking systems and innumeracy. Foreman “we hired only above average workers, yet it is clear half of you are below average.” 🙂

This simple simulation only captures a small portion of what the red bead experiment has to teach, but I do think it shows how you can create a simple piece of software and convert some ideas. And I think the quotes show how a few words can really convey quite a bit of meaning.

I do think it would be hard for someone without experience with the red bead experiment to understand the lessons but if you are familiar with it, you can see the points being referenced.

Deming experts will note the simulation misses one of Deming’s important points about the difference between results from physical systems and those based solely on mathematics or software based “random” numbers. I won’t go into that area here but it is important to understand the issues with simulated data versus data gathered from physical systems.

Related: Why do you hire dead wood? Or why do you hire live wood and kill it?Each Person Doing What They Are Told Isn’t EnoughLeadership Principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Presentation by Joyce Orsini

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