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Dr. Deming and Profound Knowledge - The "Must Knows"

The journey of Mastery asks you to examine what you must know, must do, and must be in order to master performance and realize results.   So when you ask yourself the right questions - How can I see "it" better, believe "it" better, and do "it" better, and make a difference?" - you start by looking at what we need to know.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the revered American thinker who fostered Japanese success after World War II, asked himself the question, "What do people need to know in order to succeed?"  And based on that question, he developed the concept of Profound Knowledge. 

Profound Knowledge is a framework to help people apply best effort to right tasks.  It is based around 4 principles:  theory of knowledge, appreciation of a system, theory of variation, and understanding of psychology.  All 4 of these principles are intertwined - none are very meaningful or helpful without the others.

Appreciation for a System

In his book Foundation for Management of Quality in the Western World, Dr. Deming defines a system as "a series of functions or activities (subprocesses, stages - hereafter components) within an organization that work together for the aim of the organization."  Therefore, all work is done as part of a system.  But it is important to optimize systems for the aim of the entire organization.  Optimizing one department might come at the expense of another department within the organization, thereby negating the benefit to the aim of the organization as a whole.

Theory of Variation

Understanding the theory of variation is the next step after learning about systems.  When trying to evaluate whether or not you have a stable system, you must look at variation in the output.  Systems have common cause variation (small amount of variation that is within acceptable limits) and special cause variation (drastic variation resulting from something unexpected.)  Being able to evaluate what kind of variation your system is experiencing will help you work to minimize the variation, and manage the system. 

Theory of Knowledge

Understanding what knowledge is, and how it works, is critical for someone trying to figure out what it is he/she needs to know.  Knowledge is different from information.  Information is raw data that serves only to confuse and complicate.  Knowledge is an organized set of data that can be used to make decisions.  We already have too much information in most cases (the Internet has given people an absolute overload of information.)  But most of the time we have too little information - data that has been evaluated and organized into a theory so that it is actually useful.  Knowledge is rooted in theory - a thousand examples don't prove a theory, but a single example can disprove a theory.

Understanding of Psychology

Psychology helps us figure out why people do what they do.  Intrinsic motivation causes people to do something because they like doing it, they feel valued doing it, it is important to them, or any other reason that comes from within.  Extrinsic motivation is driven by factors controlled by outside factors.  Examples can include pay, points toward earning something, and promise of promotion.  Intrinsic motivators are far stronger than external motivators. 


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