Management And Accounting Web

Goldratt's Dice Game or Match-Bowl Experiment

Provided by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

The Goal Summary | TOC MC Questions | Theory of Constraints Main Page

Citation: Martin, J. R. Not dated. Goldratt's dice game or match bowl experiment. Management And Accounting Web.

In Chapters 13 and 14 of Goldratt's novel, The Goal, Alex (the Novel's main character) takes on the role of a Scout Master and takes a group of kids on a hike. At lunch during the hike Alex develops an experiment to model a balanced plant.

The Game or Experiment

The game or experiment involves bowls (from the scouts' packs), matches, and one die from a pair of dice.

The scouts' Bowls are used to represent work stations, the Matches represent product inventory, and one die is used to simulate the statistical fluctuations (or variation) in performance at each work station or operation.

The bowls are set up as a production line representing dependent events where each operation has the same capacity, i.e., six products per day with a range of variation from one to six.

Each player (scout) rolls the die to determine how many matches (products) to place in his bowl. This represents one day's production for that operation. For example, if the first player rolls a six, then he places six matches in his bowl. If the next player rolls a four, he can only move four matches from the first bowl to his bowl. Each operation is dependent on the upstream operation for input. If the next scout rolls a five, he can only move four to his bowl because there are only four available in the previous bowl (upstream operation) in the process. The first scout to roll a four became the bottleneck operation. If another player down stream rolls less than a four, then his bowl becomes the bottleneck.

The scouts each roll the die several times in sequence to represent several days production and each time the bottleneck nearly always appears at a different operation or scout.

What is the Point of the Game or Experiment?

The point of this game, or demonstration is to show that where each operation in a sequence of dependent events has the same amount of capacity (a balanced plant), the variation and dependent events will cause the bottleneck to move from operation to operation, i.e., floating bottlenecks occur. Managers will not know where the bottleneck will show up next and will not be able to manage the system.

A balanced plant is not the answer!


Related summaries:

Goldratt, E. M. 1990. What is this thing called Theory of Constraints. New York: North River Press. (Summary).

Goldratt, E. M. 1990. The Haystack Syndrome: Sifting Information Out of the Data Ocean. New York: North River Press. (Summary).

Goldratt, E. M., E. Schragenheim and C. A. Ptak. 2000. Necessary But Not Sufficient. North River Press. (Summary).

Goldratt, E. M. and J. Cox. 1986. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. North River Press. (Summary).

Huber, M. M. 2016. Work less, play more... Get results: Achieve gamification success with an appropriate, effective design and the right performance measures. Strategic Finance (April): 40-46. (Summary).

Martin, J. R. Not dated. Comparing Dupont's ROI with Goldratt's ROI. Management And Accounting Web.

Martin, J. R. Not dated. Drum-Buffer-Rope System. Management And Accounting Web.

Martin, J. R. Not dated. Global measurements of the theory of constraints. Management And Accounting Web.

Martin, J. R. Not dated. TOC problems and introduction to linear programming.  Management And Accounting Web.