November 2015

Quality and Lean in Process Interactions Part 1 & 2
By: Dennis Sergent, MLC Chair

”From Complexity to Clarity”


is a model and a method to create a systemic view of any organization using the scientific method and engagement with the people who know it best, the subject matter experts who work in the system.  The concept has a foundation in both knowledge and experience to define and manage systems and their performance.  This moves management of organizations from complexity to clarity around a system with an aim and common purpose, with shared values and action in concert with the aim and purpose of the system.

There are many foundational references, sources for elements of this model and method.  Two fundamental references are the work of Russell Ackoff in systems thinking along with the work of W. Edwards Deming in his definition of the Deming System of Profound Knowledge ® or SoPK. Deming's diagram "Production Viewed as a System" forms this model and comes from both "The New Economics" and "Out of the Crisis".  Also the work of Associates in Process Improvement (API) and their "Quality As A Business Strategy" has advanced the work of Ackoff and Deming in defining and managing systems through the linkage of processes within systems.  

We connect with other people, through their brains and their intellect that shape their actions.  We connect people with each other and a common aim and purpose in the organizations we belong to.  We make it possible to see these connections and interactions between our work and that of others with purpose and value to the system that we are all part of.  Collaboration and helping others in a team is a high purpose of all human endeavors and it brings dignity and joy to all who contribute to a common aim and purpose.    We engage with each other as the human beings we
are, and recognize the hope we can become better each day in some way, with common aim and purpose that is bound in a shared future.

Our most profound safety as human beings comes from engaging with others in designing and implementing a better future than any present difficulty we face.  As both Peter Drucker and Abraham Lincoln
said "The best way to predict your future is to create it!” and our obvious choice is to work together with others in the pursuit of improvement to our present circumstances as we can best define them.  When we collaborate with others, we make our social system better and stronger than the competing system - which may be as destructive from inside complacency as from outside competition.

This model and method corrects what is fundamentally wrong with managing “parts” of systems, the chaotic way that most organizations are managed.  This way of thinking provides a way to break out of the management of parts and more to
of the interactions in the system. 

This method also includes the use of a common software application as a tool to connect these important ideas in a comprehensive view of the complicated systems we are responsible for.  This tool connects the flow and relationships between value adding activities in the system and processes or value streams that impact the aim and purpose of the system.   A template of this tool and rudimentary instructions can be obtained from the author for adaptation to any system and organization.


A framework for studying systems is useful to clarify the complex nature 
human made systems.  This framework seeks to depict the interactions in any system, the relationships, the flow of process, product, value and impact, materials, services and information, from input to outcomes.  The complexities of these interactions require a graphic model, combined with the wide variety of information about these interactions.

 In this system framework there are eight major components:
1.    The aim and purpose of the organization or system as defined by its
vision,mission and values.
2.    The system 
map that shows how all major processes link together in the system.
3.    The value stream maps of major processes and activities in these three organizational areas:
•    Leading, directing & guiding processes – needed to manage the organization
•    Core processes producing value – needed to produce value to the external customers
•    Support processes – which support all other processes 
4.    Information about the system and processes, stated in measurements of values and volumes, inputs, outputs, investment, outcomes, in-process measures of productivity, quality, speed and other metrics.
5.    The planning process for defining improvements in the system.
6.    The learning and improvement process for managing these improvement efforts.
7.    Leadership, direction and guidance processes to sustain the system.
8.    Action with 
knowledge to optimize the system and interactions between processes.

Looking at the organization as a system is both a model and a method to focus the entire organization on 
common purpose and improvement of the system.   This is the result of better thinking and action with knowledge of the interdependence of components within the system.   Individuals, functions, work groups and departments can work together with knowledge of this interdependence to improve the productivity of the system with better outcomes for everyone in the system.

Russell Ackoff’s thinking on this contains guidance as well as cautions for this method.   “The effectiveness of any model used to describe and understand
behavior of a particular system as a whole ultimately depends on the degree to which that model accurately represents that system. Nevertheless, there have been a number of situations in which application of deterministic or animate models to social systems have produced useful results for a short period of time. However, in a longer run such mismatches usually result in less than desirable results because critical aspects of the social systems were omitted in the less complex model that was used.”

We recommend social models that are based on the experience of subject matter expert in their detailed knowledge of their system is the best place to start.   We must also remind the reader of the words of George Box “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful”.

This method develops a view of the organization as a system composed of processes linked together at all levels to accomplish a common purpose. This view of the organization helps everyone in the system understand the interdependencies in the system and focus on the needs of internal as well as external customers.   It is very similar to the work of API (Associates in Process Improvement) in their thinking about “linkage of processes” and “Quality as A Business Strategy.”  

In this model, the linkage of processes is accomplished at the system level, on a process-by-process basis.  An organization can begin at the top or system-level and work downward into the processes and value streams level, or the team can start with specific processes and work upwards towards the system level.   It is important that the aim and purpose of the system and organization be well documented and communicated in order to begin at either level.   It is also crucial that it be done openly and transparently, asking disciplined questions and listening to the people working in the system.    This is fundamental to showing respect to the people who make up the team and satisfy the customer as their first priority of keeping the system functioning and funded.
Some companies
have done something quite different; they integrate Deming’s system view with their own management or operating system.  They have made this diagram the central way they operate as a system with common aim and purpose.  They use this innovation in their system and organize all their work with profound knowledge around their business operating system.  Some organizations have also developed and implemented an application of technology in an operation support system to enable their practice and their enterprise throughout their system.  They have made this concept actionable and practicable

When integrating the System of Profound Knowledge with their operational and management practices, this seems to be an ordinary way of doing business that makes their way of doing business extraordinary. Some companies have made it simple and interconnected everything going on in the system at the system level as a management operating system. Although they use an operating support system to communicate the connections, the greater use of this interconnection is the linkage between their daily actions and the wisdom that comes from studying and applying profound knowledge about their system.

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