Deming’s Management Ideas Evolved Into the System of Profound Knowledge

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

W. Edwards Deming spent decades refining his thoughts on management and refining how to present those thoughts. That thinking culminated in what he called the System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK).

When people think of Dr. Deming, they often think of the use of statistics and control charts, the Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle, the 14 points (or obligations) of management, the 7 deadly diseases of western management, viewing the organization as a system, the importance of customer focus, the importance of using the brains of all workers (not just management or executives) and likely several other ideas that slip my mind at the moment.

Those items are all important and all are included in his SoPK. Over time, his ideas remained grounded to what he expressed in the 1950’s. The expression of those ideas became richer, and he raised the emphasis on understanding the critical interactions between the elements. He never saw the individual items (for example, individual points in the 14 points) as discrete items. They work together as a system. The SoPK provides a view that emphasizes the importance of the interdependence within the entire system of management.

Image of the view of an organization as a system
The view of an organization as a system by W. Edwards Deming from his Japan lectures in 1950’s. Also found in Out of the Crisis and as part of the appreciation of the system within the SoPK.

The System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) is made up of 4 interrelated elements:

Related: Before Deming’s 14 Points for ManagementRon Moen and Cliff Norman Discuss the Evolution of Deming’s Management Ideas Webcast with Ron Moen: Prediction is the Problem

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