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Week 6 Discussion - The Red Pen/ Blue Pen Exercise

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Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#1
This thread is for student discussions of the Red Pen/ Blue Pen Exercise held on February 10.

Note: The exercise was developed by Dr. Bill Bellows of Boeing and In2InThinking.
 
M

Mary Davenport

#2
Sorry I was unable to attend class that evening, can you give me the gest of the experiment, or suggest a location where I might read about it? :eek:
 
R

Roberta

#3
Purple pens

The red pen/blue pen exercise has been a great way for me to summarize in my mind the do's and don't's that a successful business should follow. Sometimes it can become overwhelming to think of each individual aspect and decide which is the most beneficial way to go. It is interesting to think what a "purple pen company" would be as a combination of the two. Maybe they deliver a great and sound product due to a regimented work environment with well-maintained machines and facility, and pays very well but has a high turnover rate because it attracts employees that want better pay but then burns them out quickly because of required overtime, mediocre benefits, and treated as a robot. The pens would have to be expensive to recover the higher salary and turnover cost. More expensive pens will likely not be as competitive and eventually the business would shut down. The purple pen company must become more like the blue pen company or the red pen company to remain competitive in the business. In hardship the tendency is to go toward the red pen ways, but it would be more beneficial to fight this tendency and become like the blue company. Which direction they go would be a determinant to success. I guess most companies are in the purple range and always striving to find their niche on one side of the spectrum or the other.
 
T

The Fast One

#5
This is probably the wrong response, coming from "LA LA Land" and being quoted as saying "the sky is blue", someone also mentioned something about cats and dogs.....anyway, before we start making pens of any colour (this is the correct spelling of 'color'), why doesn't someone ask potential Customers what colour pen they want...
 

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#6
The Fast One said:
This is probably the wrong response, coming from "LA LA Land" and being quoted as saying "the sky is blue", someone also mentioned something about cats and dogs.....anyway, before we start making pens of any colour (this is the correct spelling of 'color'), why doesn't someone ask potential Customers what colour pen they want...
Please see my previous response for an internet page describing the exercise. Basically, the "blue pen" is to represent an enlightened corporation, a good place to work, while the "red pen" respresents the stereotypical regressive, bad place to work. But I have been impressed that the exercise allows for a certain amount of visualization and imagination that personalizes many quality and management principles.
 
#8
Sorry for butting in, but I found this an interesting exercise. When I refered back to the link, however, I found a statement that I felt HAD to be repeated, especially to students in the Quality Program.

This, IMNSHO, is one of the keystones of quality (and of business in general) and cannot be overstated:

'Customer satisfaction? It depends, also. Satisfaction means meeting expectations. If we don't meet expectations, we disappoint. If we exceed expectations, we delight. Customers will tell others about disappointment or delight, but not so much about satisfaction. So how important is it? Where do you spend the money to acheive delight? Not everything about the customer's experience can be delightful.'

Hopefully this will give you something additional to think about during this exercise. I know it did for me.
 

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#9
Ron Rompen said:
Sorry for butting in, but I found this an interesting exercise. When I refered back to the link, however, I found a statement that I felt HAD to be repeated, especially to students in the Quality Program.

This, IMNSHO, is one of the keystones of quality (and of business in general) and cannot be overstated:

'Customer satisfaction? It depends, also. Satisfaction means meeting expectations. If we don't meet expectations, we disappoint. If we exceed expectations, we delight. Customers will tell others about disappointment or delight, but not so much about satisfaction. So how important is it? Where do you spend the money to acheive delight? Not everything about the customer's experience can be delightful.'

Hopefully this will give you something additional to think about during this exercise. I know it did for me.
Hmmmm ... might make a good final exam essay question.
 
J

Jamie Morris

#10
Steve Prevette said:
Please see my previous response for an internet page describing the exercise. Basically, the "blue pen" is to represent an enlightened corporation, a good place to work, while the "red pen" respresents the stereotypical regressive, bad place to work. But I have been impressed that the exercise allows for a certain amount of visualization and imagination that personalizes many quality and management principles.
The "red pen" company sounds all too familiar to me. This type of organization is all about control, but control is an illusion. It is like a flea circus. You know the fleas are there on the tiny carousel, but you cannot see them (This is a great line from the Jurassic Park Movie). But it certainly holds true with this type of an organization. Managers control and micromanage employees, and berate them for not meeting meaningless quotas. They cannot see that the system or the process is the problem, not the employees. Employees become frustrated and try to do the best they can, trapped in an inadequate system and sub par processes.

So why do companies not change and become a "blue pen" company? As was stated in the exercise, the "red pen" philosophy of running a business is completely pervasive. For most managers, this is the only style of management that they know. They have not been trained to view the system holistically. They think that if they exert more control and force on the parts of the processes or system that production and the employees will improve. Employees in this type of system feel helpless and become desperate. They feel that they have no influence or capability to bring about change. So the managers and employees plod along doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I believe that the term for this is insanity. They do not try to change and do things differently, even though there are no rules that say that the processes and system cannot be changed (just like the exercise). In the meantime the customers, who wanted blue pens anyway, become disillusioned with the company and take their business elsewhere.

The end result is that quality suffers, productivity drops, profits diminish, expenses continue to rise, and in the long run the red pen company will be out of business.
 
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