A Way to See Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge in 3 Dimensions

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I had the good fortune to attend the Annual Deming Institute Conference this past weekend. It was hosted at the Michigan State University. The title of the program was “I Make No Apologies For Learning” which is a quote attributed to Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

Here is one of the interesting and helpful things that I learned at the conference. Tim Higgins, NASA Safety and Mission Assurance Specialist provided a terrific presentation titled “Curiosity, Learning, Knowledge, and Improvement. Symbiotic colleagues and inseparable companions that Deming introduced to me.”

One of the ideas that Tim shared was a way to look at Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge in 3 dimensions. Most representations of the 4 components, and how they interact and support each other are shown in 3 dimensions. Tim shared a view that starts 2-dimensionally as 4 equilateral triangles combined into one.


I made a short video that shows how you can make this into a 3-dimensional pyramid.  Here is the link: 3D System of Profound Knowledge

This made a lot of sense to me.  If we learn about these 4 bodies of knowledge and how they interact, then I think we will have the basics of what we need to transform ourselves and our organizations.

This also reminded me of something that I learned from reading the book Systems Thinking Made Simple by Derek and Laura Cabrera.  They described how complex adaptive systems work.  One of the examples they used is how a flock of birds is able to get from one place in a flocking behavior without one leader giving direction.  All of the birds follow three simple rules:
1. maintain distance x (locally to nearest neighbors);
2. adjust direction (locally to nearest neighbors); and
3. avoid predators.

By following these three rules, the birds succeed.

I think it might be similar with understanding and applying Dr. Deming’s philosophy.  We could go crazy trying to remember and apply all of the principles and methods that are taught.  However, if we focus on the 4 bodies of knowledge and how they interact, then we have a chance.

What do you think?

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