Sources of Knowledge


W E Deming (1900 - 1993), the figurehead of Continual Improvement, is credited with what looked like a miraculous economic revival in 1950s Japan. Starting from a statistical core, Deming developed a well-rounded management methodology, which he called "A System of Profound Knowledge" - a four-pronged approach encompassing: (1) systems thinking, (2) a methodology for analysing and improving work processes, (3) testing, learning and predicting outcomes, (4) psychology - how to effectively involve employees in continual improvement (teamwork and intrinsic motivation). Deming's methods are equally applicable to manufacturing and service industries.

Go to the W E Deming page for biographical details, or begin to read the White Papers for an introduction to the basic concepts of Deming's thinking.

Timothy Gallwey (b 1938) drew inspiration from his sports career. He was captain of the Harvard University Tennis Team in 1960. His book,  “Inner Game of Tennis. Inner Game of Work”, is all about intrinsic motivation and its real power to individuals and organisations. It makes a compelling case for tapping into intrinsic drivers as opposed to relying solely on extrinsic ones. His book also teaches us to overcome the inner obstacles that sabotage our efforts to give the best to our jobs.

Kenneth & William Hopper (b 1926 & 1929) are the joint authors of “The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream amidst global financial chaos” (2007). The book traces the roots of the most successful managerial cultures of modern times back to the values held by the Puritan settlers who crossed the Atlantic in the 1620s. The authors show how those good management skills grew and were later passed to Japan and other nations. A convincing parable for today’s leaders, crowned by the author's accurate prediction of the global financial crisis as rooted in the decay of the original values into bad management practices.

Patrick Hoverstadt - A consultant, academic, educator and practitioner in Systems Thinking, in particular Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model (VSM), Hoverstadt has worked in a variety of public and private organisations, using VSM and complementary approaches to analyse and design organisations and work processes. He is chair of SCiO (Systems and Cybernetics in Organisation), and also works with practitioners of Systems Thinking methods to improve competence and acceptance of those methods in the UK and Europe.

Main publications:

  • The Fractal Organisation - Creating Sustainable Organisations with the Viable System Model (2009)
  • Patterns of Strategy (2017), with Lucy Loh

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), An American-Canadian journalist and book writer, best known for her work on “urban studies” and for her activism in preserving social and cultural environments in cities like New York and Toronto; inventor of a number of sociological concepts, including “social capital”.  Jacobs created “Systems of Survival” as a dialectic exploration of two contrasting moral precept -  the Guardian and Commerce syndromes, how they inter-relate and their logical implications. She uses the term “syndrome” to explore “sets of elements that go together”, i.e. social and cultural systems. “Systems of Survival” explores conflicts where precepts from one syndrome, e.g. “be loyal”, is mixed with precepts from the other syndrome, e.g. “be honest”. Jacobs’ work represents a unique look at systems thinking applied to sociology. 

Main publications:

  • The Economy of Cities (1969)
  • Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992)
  • The Nature of Economies (2000)
  • Dark Age Ahead (2004)

Donella Meadows (b. 1941) - A far-sighted writer on human impact upon our planet, “Dana” is the lead author of “Limits to Growth”, which uses computer models to explore the impacts of our continued expansion on the planet. The book was instrumental in prompting 20th century societies to debate the future of human life and possible designs for sustainable development.

“Thinking in Systems” recast that thinking to the realm of our relationships inside organisations and to dealing with seemingly intractable problems by identifying the systems within. Her genius was to make tangible the modelling of our interactions and their consequences, encouraging our full use of leverage points.

Main publications:

  • Limits to Growth (1972), co-authors Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, William W Behrens III
  • Thinking in Systems: A Primer (2008)

Gareth Morgan (b. 1944) introduced the use of metaphors such as machines, organisms, brains, cultures, political systems, psychic prisons, flux and transformation, and instruments of domination to understand and deal with organisational issues. He also introduces the term “Imaginization”, using images such as the spider plant and the amoeba to show how successful organisations grow and develop.

Henry Neave - British statistician, worked with Dr Deming from the mid 1980s, attending many of his famous 4 day seminars. His book, “The Deming Dimension”  is the go-to book for anyone who wants to learn about the thinking of Dr Deming. Now in its third print run, it is comprehensive and written in an easy to read style. First produced in 1990 and with an update in 1998, it remains an outstanding publication.

Other publications: "Elementary Statistics Tables" is the gold standard for all students taking an introductory statistical methods course as part of their wider degree in a host of disciplines

John Seddon has made a major contribution to applying Deming's thinking to service industries. He has also been strongly inspired by Taiichi Ohno and the “Toyota way”. A long-standing campaigner for reforming the management of UK public services away from arbitrary targets to a genuinely customer-focused approach.

Main publications: 

  • Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: The Failure of the Reform Regime... and a Manifesto for a Better Way (2008)
  • Freedom from Command and Control: A Better Way to Make the Work Work (2003)
  • I Want You to Cheat! The Unreasonable Guide to Service and Quality in Organisations (1992)

Peter Senge (b. 1947) is credited with introducing the notion of the “learning organisation”. He suggests that, in the age of the knowledge worker, the only dependable route to competitive advantage available to organisations is to learn better and faster.   His first and principal text, “The Fifth Discipline” (1990,) introduces five key disciplines of management and leadership that he contests are essential to creating the learning organisation. The fifth and integrating discipline is systems thinking.  Senge’s theory is based on real work, both his own and of his many contributors experimenting with and developing these ideas in organisations all around the world. These examples are used throughout the book to bring the theory to life.  As such, it is as useful to leaders as it is to management consultants.

Other Publications

  • The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (1994) 
  • The Dance of Change (1999)

Both offer practical support to the “change enabler” seeking to engender a culture of learning and improvement in organisations, by  identifying some of the key implementation barriers and offering ideas, options and models of how to overcome them.

Myron T Tribus (1921-2016) was an important and insightful figure in the promotion of Deming’s ideas in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His ‘Perversity Principle’ exposed targets as self-defeating. He was a noted US academic who made significant contributions across fields as diverse as thermodynamics, engineering, Bayesian statistics, quality and psychology. He also won a Nobel prize for his work on aircraft de-icing systems. Interestingly, he was an advocate of hands-on engineering design at all levels of education. Ultimately he was Dean of the Center for Advanced Engineering Study at MIT. His career also included being a captain in the US army in World War II and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Science and Technology in 1969-1970, under Richard Nixon.

Main publications:

  • Thermodynamics and Thermostatics: An Introduction to Energy, Information and States of Matter, with Engineering Applications (1961)
  • Rational Descriptions, Decisions and Designs (1969)
  • Deployment flow charting. Quality & Productivity (1989)
  • Quality first: Selected papers on quality and productivity improvement (1992)
  • The Germ Theory of Management (1992)

Donald J Wheeler is a world-leading authority on statistical process control, Six Sigma, data analysis, and quality improvement. He is recognised as a Fellow by both the American Statistical Association and the American Society for Quality. He is an author, publisher and speaker. In 1992 he co-authored the classic book “Understanding Statistical Process Control” with David S Chambers. Through writing and co-authoring of twenty-five books and over 200 articles, as well as presenting over a thousand training seminars, he has had a major impact on organisations across the world.

Main publications:

  • Understanding Variation (1993)
  • Advanced Topics in Statistical Process Control (1995)
  • Building Continual Improvement: A Guide for Business (1998) co-authored with Sheila R Poling,
  • EMP III: Evaluating the Measurement Process (2006)
  • Reducing Production Costs (2010)
  • Making Sense of Data - SPC for the Service Sector (2003)
  • The Six Sigma Practitioner’s Guide to Data Analysis (2005)

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