L&D’s Red Beads are Generic Content

A few weeks ago I asked on Twitter and LinkedIn – “What are L&D’s Red Beads?”

Demings Red Bead Experiment from The Deming Institute

Beginning in the early 1980s, Dr. Deming used his infamous Red Bead Experiment to clearly and dramatically illustrate several points about poor management practices, including several of the Seven Deadly Diseases, with great disregard for the 14 Points of Management.   

A 9-minute Video

Lessons from the Red Bead Experiment include the fallacy of rating people and ranking them in order of performance for next year (based on previous performance), as well as attributing the performance of the system to the performance of the “willing workers” in this simulation of an organization governed by what Dr. Deming referred to as the “prevailing system of management.”

The Red Bead Experiment uses a control chart (also known as a process behavior chart) to show that even though a “willing worker” wants to do a good job, their success is directly tied to and limited by the nature of the system they are working within. Real and sustainable improvement on the part of the willing worker is achieved only when management is able to improve the system, starting small and then expanding the scope of the improvement efforts.

The use of a control chart represents an application of statistical theory, a tool for timely judgment of performance variations to be made according to the Deming System of Profound Knowledge.

L&D’s Red Beads

L&D’s Red Beads, IMO, are “Generic Content” w/ Face Validity but lack Performance Validity.

L&D Content too often isn’t authentic to the learners’ authentic processes & practices required in the Performance of Tasks to Produce Outputs that meet Stakeholder Requirements.

No matter how hard the L&D Practitioner caught in a “Red Bead L&D Performance Context” tries – they’ll produce Generic Content that all too often isn’t specific enough to help the Learner “learn-how-to-perform.”

That forces the Learner out of the non-authentic Formal Learning and into Informal Trial & Error or Informal Social Learning to try to figure it out on their own. While that may ultimately be Effective, it certainly will never be Efficient.

L&D Leader’s L&D System

The main Root Cause of this, IMX, is the L&D Processes & Practices that L&D Leaders and Management have put into place.

That starts with the Initial Targeting Processes of L&D efforts, often misaligned from the critical needs and often chasing huge audiences that force the content to never get too specific.

Then continues with the Instructional Development Processes – ADDIE-like or SAM-like or whatever, that isn’t Performance-Based or Performance-Oriented enough.

Then that lack of Effectiveness and Efficiency is masked by the Measurement Processes of secondary indices of Learning Activities versus Enterprise Results – such as attendance, satisfaction immediately after the experience with the learning process regarding fun, engagement, and perceived relevance (asked of people who all too often don’t know what would be relevant or not).

We can do better.

Especially as much better L&D Processes and Practices have existed since the 1960s.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.