Before we go into that, I would like to introduce you to a man named W. Edwards Deming, who has, as you can imagine, something to do with the why, but also the how. Deming challenged the commonly accepted business management practices of his time and introduced his own business management theory where everyone, workers, customers, and management, wins. His business philosophies helped guide many companies to success, including Toyota and Pixar. You can learn more about the Deming and his ideas here.
One of the well known demonstrations Deming used to educate people on poor management practices was the Red Bead Experiment. The experiment demonstrated though statistical theory how a willing worker — someone who is motivated to do well — can be hindered instead of helped by the system they work in as a result of poor management.
The experiment is as follows. The "willing workers" are lined up. Two rectangular bins are on the table in front of them. One is empty while the other is full of beads, 90% white and 10% red. The company's customers are only interested in white beads. The willing workers are shown the company's precise process for collecting the beads. The worker must take the full bin and dump it into a smaller bin at the precise height and constant rate. No shaking or interference is allowed, or they are fired.
In the same manner, they must pour the beads back into the original bin to mix the beads well. The worker then takes a flat paddle with 50 indentations for beads and sticks it all the way into the beads, agitates the beads, and then pulls it out at a 45° angle. Any deviation will result in job loss. The worker then takes the full paddle to the company inspectors who count the number of red beads and announces the count, which is recored and put on display.
Each worker does this one after the other and is compared at the end of the cycle. Naturally, some people mess up the rigid process on their first go and are instantly fired then replaced. As the experiment progresses, they reward and punish the best and worst workers based on their numbers. The result: no improvement.
They introduce stringent quotas, have motivational parties, and put up motivational posters, but the numbers show no improvement. Some try to deviate from the process in order to improve their numbers and are fired. Sales are down, and the company is failing. Desperate, management threatens to shut down the company if their is no improvement. Of course, the company is shut down due to lack of performance and the experiment ends.
Clearly, the problem is the management's imposed system of ratings, fear, and the rigid process. They take people who are already motivated to work and make them afraid to deviate, which makes improvement impossible. What they should really be doing is focusing on removing obstacles to improvement. Deming believes employees should be allowed to give feedback and help management be aware of obstacles in order to improve processes within the system as a whole.
So… how does this relate to lemons and limes? Well, the Red Bead Experiment, while fun, takes well over an hour with just a few participants. The recorded lecture version of this is an hour of boring. Anyone who has watched a Deming lecture knows what I'm talking about. In order to solve the problems of time, participation, and boringness, Ted, being a software developer, wanted to build a game. And in the spirit of Lemonade Stand, Ted wanted lemons to be white beads (the desired product) and limes to be red beads (the undesired product).