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0800-DEVOPS #57 – Deming’s Journey to Profound Knowledge with John Willis

26. 11. 2023

Welcome to 0800-DEVOPS, a newsletter digest of interesting ideas from the world of DevOps, technical practices and increased productivity! I spoke with John about the System of Profound Knowledge and how Dr. Deming's work influenced DevOps culture.

A newsletter that started as a personal learning and getting-in-touch project by Ivan Krnic grew into a sociotechnical newsletter covering topics of technical excellence, organizational improvements, and productivity.

The System of Profound Knowledge

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Dr. Deming – after all, what is there to know – watch out for seven data points in a row above or beyond the average and do something – and that’s it! Except it’s not!

Over the years, Dr. Deming pulled together universal wisdom into a comprehensive theory of management called the System of Profound Knowledge. It uses four lenses to give us a clear picture of how we should proceed in our transformation:

1. Theory of knowledge (or how do we know what we know) – Don’t take things for granted. Ask yourself why your actions will produce the expected results and how you can test that.

2. Theory of variation (or how to measure what we know) – Don’t treat all events equally. Recognize if an event is just a common variation or a special case worth pursuing further.

3. Theory of psychology (or how to understand human behavior) – Humans are precious sources of ideas and agency, but they also come with biases and motivation. They are not machines, and we cannot treat them like machines.

4. Appreciation of system and System Thinking (or how do we understand the interconnectedness of the components inside the system) – Organizations are sophisticated organisms that generate value through complex interactions among various components. Don’t optimize particular components of a process in isolation. Instead, optimize the process as a whole.

These concepts are universal, and although they originated in the manufacturing industry, they are perfectly applicable to modern DevOps culture.

Interview of the Month

Profound Knowledge with John Willis

Profound Knowledge with John Willis

John Willis is another absolute legend in software delivery and DevOps, working at companies like Docker and evangelizing good technical practices. He is the co-author of The DevOps Handbook and Investments Unlimited, and lately, he published an incredible book on Dr. William Edwards Deming called “Deming’s Journey to Profound Knowledge.” This episode is a glimpse into John’s book and our ongoing conversations with the hope that we will also spark interest for Deming in others.

Did you know that 0800-DEVOPS is shortlisted among best seven in the category of Best DevOps Related Podcast Series (Audio Only) in 2023!

Please help me spread DevOps ideas even further by voting for the 0800-DEVOPS podcast in category
4. Best DevOps Related Podcast Series (Audio Only).

It’s a small click for you, but a giant tailwind for 0800-DEVOPS serving the community!
You can vote here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DevOpsDozen2023

If you want to hear my favorite this year, it’s Clarissa Lucas for her incredible work bringing auditors and software delivery together. Consider recognizing Clarissa’s work with “Beyond Agile Auditing” by voting for her in categories “5. Best DevOps Book / eBook of the Year” and “11. Best DevOps Presentation of the Year.”

Hand picked

What is OpenAI, Really?Gergely Orosz shares his view on OpenAI happenings.

Devops and Dr Deming’s 14 Points – In this 5-minute ignite talk, John Willis maps Dr. Deming’s 14 points for management to DevOps culture.

Intro to Large Language ModelsAndrej Karpathy gives an excellent introduction to LLMs and where this field is headed.

Ten Principles for Growth as an EngineerDan Heller shares ten principles that will make every engineer a true professional.

Read with us

Read with us

Deming’s Journey to Profound Knowledge: How Deming Helped Win a War, Altered the Face of Industry, and Holds the Key to Our Future

Get the book

This book is a fantastic biography of Dr. William Edwards Deming. Through many known and less-known stories, John describes what kind of a person Dr. Deming was, how he collaborated with other important figures of that time, and how he came to the System of Profound Knowledge.


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