Theory of Knowledge

Raymond Lagonda
Mar 25, 2019 · 4 min read

In summary of the first two parts of Dr. Deming System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK), appreciating a system and understanding the variance that it may have, we came to the third part of Deming SoPK lenses: Theory of Knowledge.

Deming elaborated and advocated Walter A. Shewhart iterative four-step continual process to accumulate knowledge, Plan — Do — Study — Act (PDSA). The sequences can be traced as far back as a fundamental method of knowledge acquisition in most of the scientific methods. Starting with generating a hypothesis based on previous knowledge or observation and creating a series of testable statements to support the hypothesis (Plan). Following up by actually testing it against a varying test scenario to support or dismiss the statement (Do) and make an observable data and derive an observation inference by comparing the expectation and the observed reality (Study). By stacking more information toward accumulated knowledge then certain action can be recommended in response to the findings (Act). The newly acquired knowledge, then, to be feed to the next PDSA cycle. Thus by continuously doing this process, knowledge may be (re)acquired and refined according to Deming.

Scrum supports this strongly as many risks associated with a complex domain such as software can only be addressed by knowledge accumulation. The manner on how we learn about our own system and its variances is important as it will affect the quality of the knowledge being acquired.

Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. — Scrum Guide 2017

The knowledge acquisition needs to be done regularly and continuously in the same breath how the PDSA cycle is enacted. Thus why the rapid cycle of small batch delivery will also inadvertently increase the rate of learning and address the risks of failure of overall delivery. Delivering a working and observable artifact such as the software increment will enable the effective learning process.

It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best — W. E. Deming


Scrum made this cyclic learning to be mandatory and incorporated in its prescribed events. In fact, all of the Scrum events are geared to inspection and adaptation on newly discovered information and compounding the overall knowledge throughout the cycle.

Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known.— Scrum Guide 2017

Scrum emphasizes transparency of the artifacts, process and all of the control variables inside the system to be at all times high. By making it transparent, information can be processed at a higher degree of quality and speed. The optimal flow of information within the system will, in turn, generate a conducive learning environment that supports better knowledge acquisition.


Our way of learning is directly influenced by the manner we digest information. Scrum requires the practitioner to uphold the transparency in artifacts, process, outputs and significant aspects of its component. Kanban complements this by leveraging a ubiquitous medium: visual. Abstraction of a complex problem is hard to achieve by sole dependence on a medium. However, by leveraging a visual kit, we can almost augment every medium of communication available to us in order to be effective in learning. We can condense a whole lot of information and distribute it easily by adding a visual representation of a state of the problem, process, concept, etc.

It is worth noting that by having all the information available to us doesn’t necessarily make us more efficient in learning. It will come down to our ability to focus and filter the most important part of the information that can be acted upon immediately. How we organize our information as inventories shares similarity with how warehouses organize their physical inventories. We will put a critical and regularly taken inventory in the most efficient place or procedure. This concept is what we usually called the Information Radiator.


When we know the purpose of learning and the manner of acquiring it, the next question is who should do the learning. Deming recommended learning to be carried out by the whole organization.

Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement — Deming’s 14 points of management

It is important to understand the relation of close inter-departmental continual learning with the method we use to acquire knowledge. In a more implicit allusion to this, Scrum recommends the characteristic of a Development Team should include cross-functionality. By bringing multiple perspectives, information can be enriched and further processed with a higher degree of quality. This process of information enrichment can be only effectively being carried out in a more collaborative space. This collaborative model of knowledge acquisition will produce what is generally known as Collective Intelligence. In a complex domain, where unknowns are unknown, analyses may not be sufficient. In this case, collective intelligence can be suitable to be implemented to probe the uncertainty.


Theory of knowledge by Deming is not a set in the stone code of conduct. However, it touches a more in-depth retrospect on how we as an individual or organization perceives the world in the learning context. If we understand how information distributed, digested and interpreted within our system, only by then, our knowledge can become closer to the objective truth.


All of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge components are deeply inter-related. However, the theory of knowledge and psychology can be observed as an inward journey for self-analysis.

Like this article? Check out the next part:

This article is part of the writing series:

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

Thanks to Sjoerd Nijland

Raymond Lagonda

Written by

I'm a lifetime learner. I took everything that looked interesting for me to learn.

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

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