Search the Elsmar Cove!
**Search ALL of** with DuckDuckGo Especially for content not in the forum
Such as files in the Cove "Members" Directory
Social Distancing - It's not just YOUR life - It's ALL of OUR lives!
Me <——————— 6 Feet ———————-> You

Deming's SoPK (System of Profound Knowledge) Discussion

Steve Prevette said:
Another great book (which by the way was a much easier read) is The Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono. The book categorizes thinking into six types of thinking, each represented by a different color hat. (my word, I find myself incorporating CI Lewis-isms into that sentence). His website gives some periphery information at but you really need to read the book.

White - logic, pure data
Red - emotion
Black - pessimism, what if negative impacts, precautions
Yellow - optimistic, what if positive impacts, possibilities
Green - creative, out of the box
Blue - integrating, contemplative

"By mentally donning and switching 'Hats' you easily focus or re-direct your thought"
I once was in a brainstorming session with the use of such hats (we had construction paper "dunce" caps.) The most enlightening part to my mind was connecting the pronouncements made by a hat wearer and being able to recognize "where the speaker was coming from."

The scariest part was how easily we were able to switch focus and viewpoint as we switched hats throughout the day.

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
Hey Wes,

On the Predictive Mind question, I think that Lewis proposed we use Theory of Variation. It seems to me that a good way to improve your predictive powers as a manager may be, in part, through the application of simple SPC charts. Steve's efforts at Hanford are a good example, but I'm sure many here in the Cove are using the tool, albeit on a much smaller scale.

I think that as folks become more familiar with SPC charting and begin to apply the tool to nontraditional setting, the individual (i.e. manager) begins to understand systems and system interrelationships on a different level. The more practice, the more intuitive the mind and the matter of prediction.

Just some thoughts from an old friend...


Kevin :bigwave:
Deming was brought to mind today by two posts. One from a fellow at a company aiming to "challenge" the Deming Prize. The second from a fellow who has a school assignment and is thinking of "TQM" as his topic. TQM, of course, is closely associated with the Deming Prize. I also happened to come across the June issue of Quality Digest where the editor was reminiscing about the big part interviews with Juran had played in his career and the big thrill he got from being invited to the 100th birthday celebration of Juran (it was held in May, about 6 months early.)

Both Deming and Juran had little use for managers who weren't 100% committed to providing an atmosphere where Quality could thrive. Oddly, both Deming and Juran presaged 6S by putting their focus on the profit, but somehow 6S folk don't seem to give them credit for that insight.

I think I'm going to try and "re-tackle" Lewis. The old masters seem to look better and better every day in my opinion.
Mike S. said:
Did Deming really say, "Experience teaches nothing without theory"? If so, can a Demingite please explain that one to me? :confused:
This answer may seem a little "homespun," My explanation is an attempt to show the error of inferring a universal truth from a few observations in the absence of a "theory" against which to test the positive and negative possibilities.

BIG WORDS - hah! Here's the homespun part:

Consider my dad and his TV (I've used him as an example in other posts.)
Twenty or thirty years ago, my dad's TV started to have fuzzy reception. After fiddling with all the adjustment knobs with no improvement, he whacked the TV with the flat of his hand in frustration. Miraculously, the TV went back into focus. Thereafter, whenever the TV went out of focus, my dad's first action was to give it a good whack (or a dozen whacks!)

My dad in relation to Deming's "Experience teaches nothing without theory."
My dad had created a "myth" based on his experience, The myth being that TVs got fixed by whacking them. Repeated instances of not working after the first successful "fluke" were not enough to dissuade dad from his myth. He merely picked up new ones along the way [how to hold the remote and press the button precisely for sure and swift channel changing was one.]

If my dad had stopped and put together a theory after his first experience, he would have gone through something like the "scientific method" or root cause to determine "Why" whacking the TV worked. He might have determined the first instance was a fluke because of a loose connection or a corroded connection which had some of the corrosion dislodged by the whack. Alternately, he may have discovered the original source of the poor reception was a special cause which had no relationship to his whacking whatever (a truck with a fouled ignition system idling in the street OR a citizen's band radio operating nearby OR my mom running a food mixer in the kitchen.)

Without a theory to test against, his experience gave him no knowledge.

His remote situation was really one of a failing battery which made the infrared signal faint and therefore it had to be aimed precisely to trigger the sensor. I changed the battery and explained what the original problem was, but dad still continued to hold the remote in a certain way ever after, even though the remote would work by bouncing the signal off the wall opposite the TV once the new battery was in place.

Does this homespun anecdote give more clarity to Deming's "Experience teaches nothing without theory"?

Laura M

Hi Mike,

You may find this discussed earlier in this thread, and I can probably best explain it with an example. He was big on using stats to understand a process. If you see a trend in a control chart, you need a theory to understand why its trending. For example - experience would be Monday - Friday a 'value' always increases. Therefore the cause is Monday - Friday and you can't control it? Can't make everyday a Monday, right! That's just the experience. Obviously with a Theory, it could be machine temp, humidity, tools wear (tools changed on the weekend?) Of course this is simplistic, but I think its the point. Like in DOE class, you were always testing a Hypothesis, not just running a test.

Any other takers. Look earlier in the thread - the question was posed, but I'm not sure if we answered.


Bill Pflanz

Mike S. said:
Did Deming really say, "Experience teaches nothing without theory"? If so, can a Demingite please explain that one to me? :confused:


On page 317 of Out of the Crisis (1986 printing), Deming said "Experience without theory teaches nothing." so yes he did really say it. He explains the concept in a few different places in his book and here is the basic concept.

1. If experience alone could be a teacher than management would know how to improve quality and their competitive position.
2. Experience will answer a question, and a question comes from theory.
3. The theory may only be a hunch or a statement of principles and may even be wrong. A hunch, right or wrong, is sufficient theory to lead to a useful observation.
4. Experience can be catalogued and put to use by application of statistical theory.

Here is an example from my personal experience. The problem was too many lost time injuries. The theory was that workers were not properly trained, were inexperienced, too young, too old, size of plant and a number of other brainstorming ideas.

The safety department kept detailed records (a catalogue of experience) on the type of injury and the person injured. I created histograms and control charts from the the data (application of statistical theory) to study the brainstorming ideas (hunches).

There was a definite pattern of injuries for workers with less than 1 year of job experience. Possible causes were improper or no training. There was also a pattern of injuries if less than 25 years old but also if older than 40. The older than 40 could have forgot their training but also had different injuries - more back injuries since proper lifting was more important since they could not do the same things as when they were 25.

I also control charted the injury rate and was able to predict the future rate if no changes in the system were made. I did not find a correlation between training and "sustainable" reduction in injury. The training became part of the process and was predictable.

Experiences were combined with theory and statistical techniques were used to prove or disprove the theory.

Bill Pflanz

Mike S.

An Early 'Cover'
Okay guys, thanks. I understand all your points and examples, and could add some of my own similar stories in support.

I guess though that I hold guys like Deming, Juran, etc. to a higher standard and tend to nitpick at their statements more than the average guy. It was stated as an absolute and in that respect I strongly disagree with it. I'm sure early man did not understand how clouds produced rain -- they may eve have had the wrong theory (the Gods were crying or something) -- but they knew they could expect rain when the heavy clouds rolled in. I am sure each of us could provide many examples of where we knew certain things to be true but we did not understand the theory.

I would have stated the concept this way: "Experience without theory can be misleading."

Laura M

MMmmmm - Mike, I need to give this some thought, because I remembered thinking the same as you, and had my mind changed through some deep philosophical thinking.

I think the theory in your case is "When the sky get cloudy it will rain." (Which is actually not true, because it could be cloudy and not rain) Because without that theory, they wouldn't anticipate the rain next time. Seems simplistic, but I believe his "absolute" was based on philosophy - and the "How do you know what you know" as my signature line indicates.

Some of the basics of Theory of knowledge go back to how a baby learns. I remember my son as a 5 year old arguing that Lake Erie was an Ocean because he couldn't see the other side. His previous experience with lakes were much smaller. So he had a theory. Even though wrong, he wouldn't have learned by just looking at bodies of water and determining whether he could see the other side or not.

Deep eh?
Last edited by a moderator:

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
Speaking of clouds, I like the story used by DeBono in "I am Right, You are Wrong" about confusing cause and effect.

The statement is that airplanes must be working to make clouds and make it rain. You only see aircraft contrails in the sky when it is not cloudy, not raining.
Top Bottom