Child Welfare and the Red Bead Experiment
In the early days of the quality improvement movement, W. Edwards Deming used the “Red Bead Experiment” – a droll parody of bad management – to demonstrate why 96% of quality problems are caused by an organization’s operating systems, not workers’ mistakes.
Deming insights, summarized in “14 Points for Management”, are still relevant today, including for child welfare.
They would lead us, for example, to continually train workers, reduce costs by improving quality rather than cutting programs, and analyze systemic causes for poor results instead of blaming staff.
Congress and state legislatures create child welfare systems, more so than program managers, because these elected bodies design the constraints that everyone works within.
Unfortunately, legislators rarely apply what Deming and others learned about quality. Life for Minnesota’s children would improve if they did.
This is the first in occasional series on lessons for child welfare from the quality improvement movement.
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