Tip #563: Chocolate Candy And Audits

“How sweet it is!” Jackie Gleason

I am a chocoholic, so I really appreciate learning activities that involve chocolate candy. An earlier article focused on an activity that uses M&M’s to enable participants to experience the consequences of different leadership decision-making styles. This article focuses on an activity that uses M&M’s to experience the process and impact of a work audit.

This particular activity was designed by Susan Schilz of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to demonstrate how audits work and to make the idea of an audit less scary. Among other applications, the activity can also be used to simply practice finding percentages.

A Color Inventory of a One Pound Bag of M&M’s

The goal of this activity is to determine whether M&M’s candies is meeting their own color percentage expectations.

Note that the facilitator will need to have a computer spreadsheet as well as a table that indicates M&M’s candies’ color percentage expectations.

The facilitator should also come prepared to give each small group:

  • a 1-pound bag of chocolate M&M’s;
  • a large paper plate (on which to dump out the bag of M&M’s);
  • six paper plates (for sorting each of the 6 different colors of M&M’s);
  • enough disposable Latex gloves for each group member;
  • and a tally sheet.

The small groups will be given approximately 5 minutes to separate the M&M’s by color and then determine the total number of each color.

Before the groups begin, they should be advised that:

  • The M&M’s should be retained in their packaging until the audit officially begins, to ensure audit integrity.
  • The groups should count quickly.
  • Members of the groups should NOT eat any of the M&M’s so that the count is true and accurate. They are to resist all temptations to sample.
  • A partial M&M should be counted as “.5.”

Once a group has completed counting all of the colors in the bag, one of the group members will enter the final counts on a tally sheet. This individual will then bring the tally sheet to the facilitator, who will enter the totals into a computer spreadsheet,

The computer spreadsheet will automatically add the totals together to get the total number of M&M’s per bag.

The percentage of the color per bag will then be calculated automatically and be displayed in a table.

Finally, the groups’ audit percentages will be compared to M&M’s published percentage expectations for each color, which are as follows: brown (30%), yellow (20%), red (20%), blue (10%), orange (10%), and green (10%).

  • If there is little to no change (0-5), the accuracy rate will be considered to be in the 100-90% range.
  • If there is a discrepancy of 6-9, the accuracy rate will be considered to be in the 89- 85% range.
  • If there is a discrepancy of 10 or more, the accuracy rate will (literally) fall into the 84-0% range.

The final audit results will then be projected on a screen, so all participants can view them.

Participants tend to enjoy this activity, not the least because they get to keep their sorted M&M’s!

Facilitators may note that some groups will keep the different colors in their separate plates, while other groups will dump all of the colors together on the large plate.

If a group has a creative bent, the members may keep the colors separated but place them in an artistic arrangement on one large plate.

If time permits, it might be fun to discuss the possible significance of these differences.

May your learning be sweet.


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