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Dr. Deming’s Red Bead Experiment Steven S Prevette Fluor Government Group ESH&Q ELR Consulting ASQ Certified Quality Engineer 509-373-9371 Lessons from the Red Beads You now have a common experience with thousands of individuals Did you have an “Aha” moment?

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Dr. Deming’s Red Bead Experiment

Steven S Prevette

Fluor Government Group ESH&Q

ELR Consulting

ASQ Certified Quality Engineer



Lessons from the Red Beads

  • You now have a common experience with thousands of individuals
  • Did you have an “Aha” moment?
  • Lessons from the Beads
  • What can I do?
  • It's the system, not the workers. Dr. Deming stated “94% of the outcomes of any organization is a result of the systems used, not the people.”
  • Quality is made at the top. Quality is an outcome of the system. Top management owns the system.
  • Numerical goals and production standards can be meaningless. The number of red beads produced is determined by the process, not by the standard.

4) Rewarding or punishing the Willing Workers had no effect on the outcome. Extrinsic motivation is not effective.


5) We can use statistics to create a visual representation of the data and look for problem areas and predict future performance.

6) A faulty item is not a signal of "special" causes. A process can be stable, in-control and be producing 100 percent defective items. "Defects" are defined by specification, not by process.

7) Rigid and precise procedures are not sufficient to produce the desired quality.


8) Keeping the place open with only the "best" workers was acting on "superstitious" knowledge.

  • Management was "tampering" with the system by rewarding and punishing the Willing Workers.
  • People are seldom the source of variability.
  • Slogans, Exhortations and Posters Are At Best Useless To The Willing Worker.
questions for the willing workers
Questions for the Willing Workers
  • How did the “Worker of the Day” feel?
  • How did the Probationary Worker feel?
  • What did they do different?
    • Implications for “Lessons Learned” programs?
  • How did the rewards and punishments affect the workers?
  • Was the knowledge of the workers put to work by the company?
  • How would you like to work for this company?
  • Do you work for this company?
the recorder and inspector s
The Recorder and Inspector(s)
  • Why were the willing workers not allowed to count and record their own beads?
  • Was there value to an independent count?
  • Was it worth the cost?
  • What would happen if the inspectors falsified data?
the foreman

ELR Consulting, Inc.

Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business

The Foreman
  • What was the effect of “State your first name and spell it”?
  • What did the Foreman do to control outcomes?
  • When should procedure compliance be mandatory?
  • Were the communications one-way or two-way?
  • What were the costs to the company of the Foreman’s actions?
  • What could the Foreman have done?
dr deming
Dr. Deming
  • 14 Points
  • System of Profound Knowledge
    • Appreciation for a system
    • Knowledge about variation
    • Theory of Knowledge
    • Psychology of people

Photo credit – MIT/CAES

how can i apply these lessons
How can I apply these lessons?
  • How you present your data
  • How you interpret your data
  • How you take actions from your data
  • Set directional goals vs. arbitrary numerical targets
  • How you treat and lead people
  • Inspection practices
  • Systems interactions
  • Personal transformation of thinking, feeling, interactions, behaviors
  • Affecting others’ transformation
but i don t make the charts i m not a manager
But I don’t make the charts!I’m not a manager!
  • Is there a safety or quality committee?
  • Annual improvement plans / goals?
  • May you suggest alternatives to current practices?
  • Who can you team with?
  • Find the friendly neighborhood statistician
  • Sometimes you are never so powerful as when you are powerless (Tom Peters)
data presentation
Data Presentation
  • How effective were:
    • The table of numbers?
    • Ranking the workers?
    • Bar Chart?
    • Moving Average?
    • Color Coding?
  • The control chart showed us the process was stable and predictable.
    • “It’s so simple, just plot a few points” - Deming
implications of a stable process
Implicationsof a Stable Process
  • No amount of explanation of, corrective action to, or causal analysis of an event will fix a broken stable process
    • What if we did a root cause analysis of why Red Bead #298 fell in hole #19 of the paddle?
    • What about “Find it Fix it”?
the spc lens
The SPC Lens

Control Charts show whether the process is stable (common cause variation), or whether there is a changing condition (special cause variation)

The following charts are from a project I worked on with the US Department of Energy

personal transformation
Personal Transformation

A person, once transformed, will

  • Set an example
  • Be a good listener, but will not compromise
  • Continually teach other people
  • Help people pull away from their current practices and beliefs and move into the new philosophy without a feeling of guilt about the past

From The New Economics, Deming

resources you are not alone
Resources – You are Not Alone
  • Hanford Trending Primer
  • In2InThinking

  • Deming Electronic Network

  • American Society for Quality

  • The Elsmar Cove Discussion Board
white bead conclusions
White Bead Conclusions
  • A microcosm of current practices
  • A vision of improved practices
  • A new philosophy
  • Statistical lessons
  • Human lessons
  • Process lessons
  • Spread the word!