Red bead game for better understanding Deming

The RED BEAD Experiment is a tool that allows workers and managers and customers to unite using a common language to find ways to treat each other with respect; get beyond the old biases and to work as a team.


The result will be to find the red bead problems that are the causes of their: rework; the wasted effort; and the changes in mind that take away our profit; our worker satisfaction and push good customers away to look for another supplier!

Workers must learn to trust management and management must learn to trust workers. Each has an important role to play in the identification and resolution of problems that we face in our work place.

It does not matter if it is a manufacturing or service setting. Also, it does not matter if it is private or public sector or a non-profit agency.

In addition, it is important to bring the suppliers and the customers into the discussion and problem solving.

We are now talking about a new way to look at our workplace. We are all customers and suppliers of each other in the modern business world!


The original Red Bead Game was created at Hewlett-Packard Company as a gift for Dr. Deming in 1982 by Mr. William (Bill) Boller. In 1984, the current provider, Mr. Mike Johnson an associate of Mr. Boller at HP, received permission from HP to manufacturer and sell the game set worldwide.

In 2005, Mr. Johnson donated an original paddle and set of beads to the ASQ Organization to be displayed in their new headquarters building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Information about this display is available in the Deming Newsletter dated Spring 2005. A copy may be found at the following link: click for link

In 1994, Mr. Johnson, scripted and produced this video on VHS tape. In 2007 the video was re-released on DVD in its current form.

There is a lot of management training hype being taught in companies and schools all over the world. What is important is to practice what is being taught. We must learn to live the way we talk. Practice what we preach!

The name Red Bead is a metaphor for the problems that we experience every day in our life.

The world is a never ending supply of problems. Each day, you get up in the morning to solve the problems of the day. Solve one problem and more problems appear. It is the way of the world.

After World War II, Dr. W. Edwards Deming went to Japan help them recover from the devastation of the war. Japan’s success is a fact in history. Even today, the Japanese economy is strong and one can make the case stronger in some ways than the USA and most of the world.

In 1982, a teaching tool was created with Dr. Deming that he used in his seminars around the world to teach his famous 14 Obligations of Management. Dr. Deming called this training tool, The RED BEAD Experiment or Red bead Game.

When you play the game, each player uses a special metal paddle to draw small red and white colored beads from a large bowl.

Each draw of the paddle gets 50 beads. Some are white and some are red.

The white beads symbolize the good things that we experience each day as we do our work and the red beads symbolize the problems or bad things that we experience.

As each player draws their paddle full of beads each player receives a different mix of red and white beads. It’s a random draw.


There are many teaching examples as you play the game. One of the examples is that that our lives experience different things each day; some good and some bad.

We as willing workers most of the time have no control over our experiences. We the willing worker did not make the company; our bosses did, and we should not be held responsible for most of the problems or mistakes. Yes, we can control about 4 out each 100 problems but not the other 96; as they are problems created by the system.

If our bosses want us to do better work, they need to use specialists to ask us questions and then design improvements to the system to remove permanently the problems (red beads) that we find each day.

Yelling by the bosses at the workers will not do any good. Actually yelling just makes the workers more quiet and shy and the names of the process problems will be hidden even more.

So the workers have a very important role in assisting the bosses to improve. They know the names of the problems and our bosses should create a friendly work environment that make the workers feel free (not afraid) to speak up and share what they know.

On and on the game is played and more and more management points are discussed. This is the parable of the RED BEADS as Dr. Deming calls it in his books.

For more information, please click to read this newspaper article written by the Deli India Express India newspaper on 19 November 1998.


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