The System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) - Quality Management

Deming has described his thinking on the management of organizations in the System of Profound Knowledge. This is, perhaps, the least well known of his contributions, but (as the name implies) the most profound. The approach (an adapted model of which is shown in figure ) combines systems thinking with an understanding of statistical analysis, a people focus and a learning approach based on the knowledge generated from the other elements.

Systems thinking: This is the art of seeing the world in a joined up way. It involves seeing your organization as a system, rather than taking a reductive approach to considering only the individual parts. It is important that everyone in the system understand the system aims and understands the process through which outcomes are obtained. Changes need to consider consequential and indirect impacts.

Variation: All processes vary, but is the variation predictable? Is the variation acceptable to customers? Do people understand how to react appropriately to different kinds of variation?

Psychology: People are a very important part of the system. How will they react to changes? How do they feel about their work? Do variation or other parts of the system cause stress or lead to inappropriate behaviors? How will the decisions managers make impact on the people in terms of motivation, pride etc? How open is it possible to be in the company environment?

theory of Knowledge: Plan-Do-Study-Act is known as ‘The Deming Cycle’. It is the scientific method in practice. We must seek to learn from our experiences, in particular considering the other 3 elements of the System of Profound Knowledge. We must seek to understand the effects of decisions and changes, look for evidence and judge only on this.

The system of profound knowledge

system of profound knowledge

It is the integrative nature of the model that is most important to consider at this stage. Deming’s point was that piecemeal consideration of these issues would be likely to lead to sub-optimal outcomes and an undue focus in one area.


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