Ed Deming’s birthday, a deep thinker and innovator in what is called Quality Assurance, I find his quoted key principles of profound knowledge amazing. It is amazing once we could ‘appreciate’ the chasm between the normal definitive modes of business (industrial, engineering, management, services, etc.), and what he sees as the iterative connection of business, its people and the product.
He says all managers need to have the following attributes for their handling of the business:
Appreciation of a system,
Knowledge of variation,
Theory of knowledge,
Knowledge of psychology,
Let me distill these four principles in an as simple and as connected way as possible: a system, that is the set of elements pointing to a total structure (company building, people, assets, etc.) needs to be self-aware of itself, ie, to know what it does. In order to know what it does, a system, is in need of an external input (think of a happy or unhappy customer calling the company and gives a feedback), what does a system do with the feedback? Think of your own experiences in dealing with giving a feedback to a business. It’s a spectrum. The system needs to know what to do with the feedback, as it also needs to know how the feedback was generated in the beginning. A system as a business makes products, Gmail, or tortilla. Now, there is a huge difference between offering Gmail service to a global user, and making tortilla be enjoyable on the palates of its savorers, the system needs to know how to use its knowledge of the product. Sometimes the product is a science paper, and the knowledge involved in its creation, is made public to all, let’s assume we continue on that good path. And also a product could be an engineered device, which its knowledge is not made public because it is the tribal culture of how Engineering can survive, it’s intolerant to competition. The intolerance is a symptom, and I am being literal by using ‘symptom’. The business and not the users of the business output, consider (ie view their product), as being a competition against others and to be guarded, the product has to stand alone, or stand out, like many of the iproducts! We find, and look at your own assessment, that the system rarely has an appreciation of the psychology of its own people, much of the emphasis is on special engineered knowing for the manipulation of its users, advertising industry is in this business, influencing people to buy. A system as a business can be in the business of giving sustaining, renewing and regenerative agenda, provide potable water to all. Or, the system’s products could be cigarettes, its uses with consequences is heavily conditioned.
I find Deming’s pointers (or pillars) of his Profound System of Knowledge as question marks for businesses that want to improve in a consistent manner: the knowledge of keeping the business in business has an organic link (my choice of word) with the users. I can image someone could use the same reasoning of Deming for broader (adverse) usability of its products, think of consumers mind control, ie, influence people at the receiving end to be susceptible to the product, and disconnected from the profound knowledge of how the product work, yes, consuming excessive alcohol as organic fuel, will do what it does to body.
I think Deming's ideas is at heart cybernetic, ie, how a system can self-govern, self regulate itself in the environment of other systems. Heinz von Foerster's Understanding Understanding comes to mind: what is system of system? What is writing of writing? The Quality Assurance ideas of Deming go deep in us.