The beer game LO20728

John Gunkler (
Tue, 23 Feb 1999 11:31:11 -0600

Replying to LO20682 --


I suggest that you might want to get a copy of an early book, edited by Ed
Roberts, describing a whole lot of "real world" work using system

The book is Managerial Application of System Dynamics. It contains case
studies, and "real" data from "real" companies, in a wide variety of
industries -- from chemicals (Dow) to groceries (Kroger) to computer
components manufacturing, etc.

You may be surprised to see how the same kind of situations you describe
as being unrealistic in the beer game actually occur in these very
different kinds of companies.

You see, the beer game is not about how people "ought" to act, but how
people actually behave in what I consider to be quite a realistic (if
simplified) situation. The message, to me at least, is that if smart,
experienced managers can act so stupidly in such a simple situation,
imagine how difficult it is for us to make the right decisions in the
actual complexity of our work.

You can see, even in the early work described in Roberts' book, how quite
sophisticated decision "rules" being used by successful companies are
causing the very problems they are intended to solve. In many cases the
"solution" (or at least a better decision rule) is counterintuitive to the
experienced managers and would probably never have been tried without the
intervention of a simplified dynamic model and careful work by the
consultants. In fact, in some cases reported in the book, the better
solution was either not implemented or it was tried briefly then abandoned
(even though it was working!)

I've been humbled by learning about system dynamics -- and I don't trust
my experience and intuition in certain management situations like I once
did. We humans just aren't very good, unaided, at dealing with


"John Gunkler" <>

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