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Teaching Tip: Fun Class Exercise in TQM

October 3, 2010

We all know that students have trouble staying focused for a long lecture, even with the great job we all try to do. So I often try to find a short activity that will make a teaching point, break up the class for a few minutes, and get all the students enthused.  Here is something you may want to try in TQM (Ch.6). It takes about 10 minutes.

In this chapter, we have suggested that building quality into a process and its people is difficult. In the old days, inspection was the main form of quality control. But inspection may not catch all the errors, and it may be expensive. To indicate just how difficult inspections can be, ask your students to turn to the OM in Action box at the end of Ch.6, called Richey International’s Spies.

Ask them to each count the number of E’s (both cap and lower case), including those in the title, but excluding the sources  footnote. This should be a pretty easy inspection job, I suggest, and I offer a crisp $5 bill to the 1st student to give me the correct count. Does this ever get their attention!

As they each finish, I ask them to shout out their count and I do a tally on the board. There is amazing variation and I only have to shell out the reward in maybe one out of 3 classes. The answer, by the way, is in the Solutions Manual, as discussion question #19.

If you have a good experience with this, please let us know. And if you can share a class exercise of your own, we would be very happy to hear from you also.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2010 1:54 am

    This is always a good exercise, it really illustrates the limitations of inspection and the reason for using TQM or lean (error proofing) to prevent defects instead of just inspecting them away.

    • Taira permalink
      October 19, 2015 8:52 pm

      How many e’s are there??

  2. Chuck Munson permalink
    October 9, 2010 8:28 pm

    I tried this exercise a couple of weeks ago in a class of 75 students. I modified Barry’s approach in only one way–I also offered $1 to anyone who got the number correct after the first person (so that multiple people might guess the same number and so that we would be able to compute a true distribution of responses). Coinciding with Barry’s experiences, only one person got it correct, and most weren’t anywhere close. The students seemed to enjoy the exercise, and most were shocked by the final number. Among other things, the exercise does a nice job of pointing out: (1) the potential fallacy that “complete inspection” will catch all errors, (2) the propensity of human error–even among college-educated students, and (3) the importance of choosing the correct “length of task” for inspectors. Concerning (3), clearly almost every student would have gotten the prize if I only had them inspect the first two or three sentences. The percentage correct would presumably begin to drop sharply after that. Finally, I must say that I usually pride myself on my proofreading abilities (back to my days as a newspaper editor in high school), and I was quite disappointed in the results of my first two attempts at this exercise! It’s not as easy as I had thought!

  3. August 27, 2014 3:40 am

    Hello, How much time did you give the students to conduct the activity?

    • August 27, 2014 1:11 pm

      We usually take about 5 minutes for the exercise. Then the discussion takes another few minutes. Good luck!

  4. October 19, 2015 11:16 pm

    We have the exact count in the Instructors Solution Manual, which is available to you on line–or in print from your Pearson rep.

  5. bhuvaneswari permalink
    November 24, 2015 8:58 am

    nice tip

  6. Debora permalink
    July 7, 2016 1:45 pm

    Just tried it with some bored German students who have a hard time getting away from their mobile phones. I had them count the “e”s in the Wikipedia article on TQM. This had the added advantage of them having to ask back if I also meant “in the navigation” or “in the info box” – we had to make the spec more precise. Since “i” in English is pronounced “i” in German, I even had one student count the number of “i”s, and some counted the “e”s in the “edit” navigational buttons. No one got it right, they were very concentrated, and we collected a number of problems that occurred on the board, as well as discussing various methods to do the inspection. Needless to say, even the ones using tools didn’t get the correct answer, although they were done *much* faster. Excellent idea, thanks a lot!


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