Deming on Management: Psychology

Guest post by John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog (since 2004).

This is the second of a series of posts that will provide resources for those interested in particular topics related to W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on management. The first post explored the PDSA cycle.


Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) consists of 4 components: appreciation for a system, knowledge of variation, theory of knowledge and psychology. Often those new to Deming’s ideas find psychology as the area they feel most comfortable with.

The idea that the human nature of the people working in the organization is an important consideration in managing those organization seems obvious. And the term psychology is one they are familiar with and feel comfortable with. It is important to understand what that term means within Deming’s management system, it isn’t the same thing as what is covered in a psychology 101 course.

Within Deming’s SoPK the psychology component includes an appreciation of:

  • how will people are influenced by management policies (for example, targets or a culture of blaming individuals)
  • the innate desire people have to take pride in their work
  • how people resist change (and how to reduce that resistance)
  • confirmation bias (one way our brains can lead us astray)
  • what drives people to behave as they do
  • and much more

Quote image text: The greatest waste in America is failure to use the abilities of people.

Within the Deming context taking psychology into account requires focusing on the people doing the work and appreciating how those people will flourish or be held back by the systems put in place by the organization. Lean thinking has a similar idea which is labeled, respect for people, which I think is an excellent phrase to capture the psychology component of the System for Profound Knowledge.

Gaining an appreciation for what falls within the psychology component of a Deming’s SoPK is not easy. The following blog posts and other resources can help provide insight for an attempt to gain that understanding.

Blog Posts





Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top