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The Red Bead Experiment

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Helmut Jilling

Auditor / Consultant
#11
Anita Alston said:
I had already Googled the Red Bead experiment, prior to class; so, had some knowledge of it already. However, I found it humorous that the experiment added the signage that is so prevalent in many workplaces, as "incentive" for improvement. I have worked, over 40 years, in many hospital systems across the country; and, each one had their own "coined" incentive phrases, posters, motivational educational seminars, etc. etc. Many healthcare corps. changed from one "innovation" to another, trying to encourage a good morale, helpfulness, etc. If their productivity or patient satisfaction numbers declined, they often changed tacts. Currently, I work for one that has utilized all the bells and whistles of the "FISH philosophy".....you know, the "choose your attitude....play....have fun..... be there for others, etc."
And, there are FISH cards you can use to expound on someone's above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty helpfullness. The cards go in a fish-bowl; there is a drawing monthly for some extra little goodie, and email recognition. But, essentially, this does not change the work environment and costs the corporation $$ in obtaining materials and utilizing this copywritten "philosophy". What we really want is some attention to the problems at hand, validation of our concerns, extra help on units that are short-staffed, and a general environment of teamwork. Does management really listen to our concerns and act? Does the FISH philosophy really change the work environment for the better? What about our annual performance evaluations that are "mandatory" per Human Resources, but not connected to any incentive bonus? What good does all this do for the worker, or the workplace? My guess is, as demonstrated with the Red Bead experiment, there is not much correlation between management's choice of incentive phrases and materials and actual (measurable) results.
Anita

Anita, my consulting company is putting together a pilot program for improving Healthcare that I think you would be pleased with. It focuses on Deming's concepts that the failure is in the system and management controls the system, therefore, the program focuses on getting management to do the right things. A refreshing focus, rather than blaming everything on the workers, wouldn't you agree?

(if you would be interested in seeing this, send me a private email with your email address, and I will send you the Powerpoint brochure when it is ready.)
 

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#12
Wes Bucey said:
Steve:
It appears some of your students are ready for an introduction to Deming's 14 points to go along with Red Beads, especially the one point about slogans, banners, posters, and other exhortations.

I'll really be interested in reading their responses. I'm hoping it will be as big an epiphany as Red Beads.
The eventual follow-on to this course, MC550 Operations Management is a surprisingly Deming based course. The first of two projects require an application of Deming's 14 Points! Hopefully, all of the current MC506 students will be able to take MC550 with me. We did run into a bit of bad news this quarter - City University has chosen to shut down the local campus and also the Yakima WA campus at the conclusion of training currently enrolled students. I have taken the necessary "training" to teach internet, so I will experiment with that after the current group is completed.
 
#13
Steve Prevette said:
The eventual follow-on to this course, MC550 Operations Management is a surprisingly Deming based course. The first of two projects require an application of Deming's 14 Points! Hopefully, all of the current MC506 students will be able to take MC550 with me. We did run into a bit of bad news this quarter - City University has chosen to shut down the local campus and also the Yakima WA campus at the conclusion of training currently enrolled students. I have taken the necessary "training" to teach internet, so I will experiment with that after the current group is completed.
Bummer on the closing:( :(

I like the internet, but I think there is more value to the face-to-face interaction among students and instructors.

I think the "political skills" I learned in school dealing with instructors and fellow students were much more instrumental in my corporate success than the facts I learned to regurgitate upon command. Heck! When I was in school, tectonic plate theory was considered wild-eyed and radical and the province of crackpots, but the political tools I learned have only become sharper with use while the "facts" have become laughable.
 
J

jneely

#14
J Neely Red Bead Experiment

During the course of this experiment I played one of the "willing workers". The frustration one felt each time they took their turn to try and retreive as many white beads as possible was very evident. Frustration seems to be a common "thread" when it comes to systems being run by the numbers and not by best practices. Management seems to forget that they hired most of their staff because they had something to give to the company. My company has a system of "instant rewards" (usually a gift card) that mangement can bestow on a worker whom they feel has gone beyond their regular duties and performed at a higher level. Does the system work? I think not! Many are given as just a way of rewarding the shining stars or the boss' pets. Many of the hard workers never see these instant rewards because management does not acknowledge their contributions. Do these rewards seem to increase productivity, not really, they have become a joke and only the chosen few receive these, the ones that constantly stay in the radar. These rewards are treated as extra compensation by many and the staff can give to each other. I have watched as staff have sat at a table and filled out comment cards in order to give these rewards to each other. I have heard many say it is how they do their holiday shopping! Rewards are one way of motivation, however, this in my opinion is not a true and fair reward system. Again, management has failed to use an incentive tool to provide improvement. It has provided a way for workers to take advantage monetarily.
 
Q

qualeety

#15
a different view.....

wealthbuilder said:
I have been in the Insurance sales business for over 12 yrs now and I am still fustrated
with the performance review and reward systems that companies use to determine an agent's value and/or if they are going to keep their jobs. I have seen many good agents quit the business just because they were told to produce more.

For example: Agent-1 submitted 10 apps. in a production period that issue with only a $1000 in commission, and Agent-2 only submits 4 apps in the same period and those generated $4000 in commission. Agent-2 is considered the "good" agent, and Agent-1 is considered "not performing to required standards." Agent-1 is put on probation or terminated.

The Insurance Industry is plagued with this type of performance evaluation. Most companies only count the net commission earned and not the other factors affecting the sales and issue process. It doesn't matter that an agent has great sales, marketing, time management and other business skills, if the net commissions generated are not to the levels the company is requiring. It doesn't matter that the agent makes the sale to the client and the client is declined for any number of other factors. The agent did his/her job in selling, but other factors outside of the agent's control come into play: underwriting issues, client was untruthful as to their health, client changes their mind for any reason - lost job, died, etc....

These performance and reward systems focus on only one factor - the net commissions.
They do not take into account the other abilities of the agent. The "Red Bead Experiment" brought to light what I have personally felt and experienced, as well as seen happening to many of my colleagues.

http://elsmar.com/Forums/images/smilies/thank_you.gif[/IMG]

Interesting....if you know the rules of game, doesn't it make sense to play the game to win...how do we know agent 2 is not as good as agent 1...maybe he was smarter and knew what he had to do...i only complain when the rules of the game change while playing...that is what gets me :mad: ...but if rules of game are clear then whoever wins win!!!

you mentioned "I have seen many good agents quit the business just because they were told to produce more"...if they are good agents, maybe they can produce more.

from the company's view, the agents who bring most money (note: this can be construed as a short term view) are the valuable employees...as a former saleperson, i knew my job was to sell, sell and sell...there was no ifs, yahs or buts...you can discuss the unfairness of territories, existing customers, etc among different salesperson but that was the GAME i agree to play when i accepted the job :agree: ...i remember i had to chase the 18wheelers to find the competitives' customers when i started a new territory...it was **** but at the end of first two months, i knew all the competitives' customers...then another 6 months to make inroad with the potential customers...at the end of the first year, i went from nothing to top ten...and i rode that gravy train for three years before i decided to change my job...so, please don't tell me the system hinders the performance of good agents...as long as the rules of the game is clear, everything is a fair game!!!!

(disclaimer: i am not advocading that performance and reward systems focus on only one factor - the net commissions is a good system)
 

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#16
qualeety said:
Interesting....if you know the rules of game, doesn't it make sense to play the game to win...how do we know agent 2 is not as good as agent 1...maybe he was smarter and knew what he had to do...i only complain when the rules of the game change while playing...that is what gets me :mad: ...but if rules of game are clear then whoever wins win!!!
Unfortunately, in many systems if all of the "players" play by the "rules of the game", the overall system loses. Everyone out for themselves seldom buillds teams, yet what is one of the most common questions in job interviews? Are you a team player!

This has been shown to the students in the Beer Game previously this quarter, and they will encounter a few more experiences in the course material that will show that point.
 
J

Jamie Morris

#17
Steve Prevette said:
We have completed the Red Bead Experiment for the Fall 2005 session. Please review the following postings from last year, and add your opinions and insights. This activity is worth 2 extra credit points on the final.

See http://www.hanford.gov/safety/vpp/redbeadreach.pdf for information on the Red Bead Experiment

Also, please read and discuss the attached paper. There will be an essay question on an exam related to what you found to be important lesson(s) from the Red Bead Experiment.
This was my third participation in the red bead experiment (two live sessions, one videotape version). I must admit that I learn something new each time about the importance of understanding systems, and the importance of bringing about change through system and process change, not through change in willing workers. My career has spanned 25 years, and in those 25 years I have observed workers and management struggle in an attempt to improve quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of processes, organizations, and companies. Unfortunately, the focus for this change has always been about motivating/changing the workers and their performance through rewards, recognition, and oh yes intimidation and fear. I have attempted to gently persuade management that change in quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of an organization, process, or company requires a detailed review of the systems that make up these organizations. My battle cry has been, "We must strive to establish outstanding systems that will allow even average willing workers to have outstanding performance" (Scholtes -The Leaders Handbook). Even though I am not a top level manager, Steve reminded me that I must work for change in the areas that I can change and allow small successes to generate larger successes. I asked Steve to come and do the Red Bead Experiment for the management team in my organization. He did, and I have been impressed with the changes that have occurred in the organization. When events occur that are outside the control limits, managers are more inclined to look at the process first versus worker performance. Small changes in attitudes and perceptions among the management team are occurring. All of these signs are encouraging - thanks again Steve!
 
B

BLMoe

#18
BLMoe - All that I see are red beads

Over the last few years the organization (audit agency) that I work for has implemented Total Quality Management (TQM). We have monthly team meetings and annually we set team goals (hard goals and soft goals). We need to develop metrics to track the hard goals. So last year we had our goal setting meeting and our manager says "Oh by the way, upper management wants us to set a hard goal on improving customer service." Well so much for a "team" goal.:frust: The program is there that will allow us to improve our team on a local level and now because other teams in the organization have customer service problems we now have a mandatory customer service goal. We have only one external customer who fights to keep us in their budget each year. We get certificates of appreciation from them every year, yet we have to have a goal with metrics to monitor customer service.
This was my first time watching the red bead experiment and after looking at my organizations management style and hearing the mantra "do more with less", all I see are the red beads. That is what we are trained to do, not find the white beads but look for red beads. Then we pelt each other with them.
I guess that I need to find a positive use for the red beads that I find instead of pelting my coworkers. That was one of the discussions that we had after our red bead experiment was find a company that would like red beads. There has to be a use for red beads out there somewhere.:magic:
 

Jim Wynne

Super Moderator
#19
BLMoe said:
That is what we are trained to do, not find the white beads but look for red beads. Then we pelt each other with them.
:lmao: I'm laughing with you, not at you. You are laughing, aren't you? :eek:
Seriously though, you shouldn't have to look for the white beads either. The whole point of the Red Bead demonstration (it's not an experiment, because the conclusion is known beforehand) is that your bosses are supposed to develop processes that obviate--or at least minimize--the need for bead-hunting.

BLMoe said:
There has to be a use for red beads out there somewhere.
I've found them to be especially useful to companies that aren't interested in staying in business. The problem is, they almost always have enough of their own red beads, and aren't likely to be interested in yours.
 
T

terryw

#20
Red Beads Everywhere

As someone in Human Resources who observes in the workplace the same mistakes made in the Red Bead expirement, I loved it. Steve will be doing the expirement for our management staff and hopefully a lot of them will understand that managing is different than leadership. Motivating employees takes more than regulating progress by counting widgets. You need to hold the "why" in front of your team, hire the best, raise the bar, and let them go. Micromanaging is not the key to increased productivity! I am looking at a Harvard School of Business program on organizational fitness that deals with getting input from the people who are really doing the work! I'm hoping we can use it to increase efficiencies and effectivenesses within our organization. The Red Bead Expirement will be a great kickoff!
 
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