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Systems Thinking

Leaving the fishbowl

Systems Thinking


We exhist in an echosystem of subsystems.


Walter Shewhart, the father of Statistical Process Control, combined Control Theory and Statistics to create a form of systems thinking in the early 1920's.  He said everying can be thought of as a system, having inputs, transformational throughputs, and outputs.


Change one thing inside a system, and you can impact the entire contents of the system as well as whaterver the system outputs impact.


To best understand a system, you have to get outside of it. The old proverb reminds us that fish don't know they are swimming in water if they've never left the fishbowl.



System Learning and Profound Knowledge


W. Edward Demning, the American quality pioneer, expanded the systems thinking concept and applied it to other domains besides statistics. He made popular Shewhart's famous Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle which is useful for accumulating profound knowledge, or knowledege about how a system behaves.


If you know about a system already, then you have profound knowledge.  If not, then you need to build some, using the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.


In practice, the cycle usually looks more like Plan-Do-Check-Plan-Do-Check-Plan-Do-Check-Act!


In Japan, Toyota added "Go-And-See" to the PDCA cycle, sometimes calling it OPDCA, or Observe-Plan-Do-Check-Act.  There is no substitute to going to the physical location and observing the change impacts in person.



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