Profound knowledge applies many places

Edifying! Insightful! Profound! Intriguing!Dennis Stevens posted an article about Deming and the System of Profound Knowledge.  Of course, I know who Deming is, but I don't think I'd ever seen the System of Profound Knowledge before.  As Dennis describes things, I see an immediate connection to the Theory of Constraints.

Here is how Dennis describes it:

Deming believed that generating a shared understanding of the system, taking actions that optimize economic outcomes, and aligning the beliefs of the people within the system were keys to a sustainable ongoing improvement effort. Deming taught this as the System of Profound Knowledge (SPK). There are four points to SPK:

  1. Appreciation of the system
  2. Understand how variation impacts the system
  3. Theory of Knowledge of the system (based on the above)
  4. Psychology

While the Theory of Constraints words things differently, these four items are closely related to how TOC approaches systems. 

First off, if it's a system, you'd better look at the system, not just the pieces that make up the system (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).  Deming is probably best known for the focus on understanding variability in the context of the system - something that many people and organizations don't spend enough time doing.  With that information, you can then build a theory of the system and go on to hypothesize some corrections.  And underneath all of this is human psychology: systems are made up of people who have long memories and deep understandings which color their behaviors in ways that are not always obvious on the surface. 

And as a reminder, the core process in Theory of Constraints is a set of Five Focusing Steps (5FS).  But even before you can focus, you need to answer a couple questions:

  • What is the system?
  • What is the goal of the system?

With that in hand, you can then analyze according to TOC

  1. Identify the Constraint of the system (what's preventing the system from attaining more of its goal?)
  2. Determine how to get as much as possible out of that constraint (time lost at the constraint is lost forever)
  3. Align the rest of the system to the constraint (don't make decisions that optimize one sub-system to the detriment of the overall system)
  4. If you still need more, elevate the constraint (hire, buy, etc)
  5. Don't let inertia become a constraint.  If the constraint moves, start over at step 1.  (But maybe step 1 should be a strategic selection of the constraint, so that you don't have to keep re-aligning your business to different constraints.)

[Photo: "Edifying! Insightful! Profound! Intriguing!" by quinn.anya

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