Pragmatic Knowledge And Its Application To Quality

Article

Lovitt, Michael R.   (1992, ASQC)   Provost Consulting Group, Inc., Austin, Texas

Annual Quality Congress, Nashville TN    Vol. 46    No. 0
QICID: 9821    May 1992    pp. 909-915
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Article Abstract

If the classic works of the Quality movement are any indication, a significant and influential contributor to the concept of Quality was C.I. Lewis, an American philosopher who espoused "less orthodox" views of pragmatism. Two founders of Quality, Walter A. Shewhart and W. Edwards Demings, acknowledge their intellectual debt to Lewis in their books, Statistical Method From The Viewpoint Of Quality Control and Out Of The Chaos, respectively. In fact, the work of Shewhart and Demings indicates that Lewis's thought paved the epistemological foundation for Quality, including such crucial notions as the idea that experience alone teaches nothing; the need for conceptual interpretation in the creation of knowledge; the need to understand the role of data in the creation of beliefs; the need for fundamental operational definitions; and the need for theory and prediction in knowledge. Specifically, the epistemology of Lewis depicts knowledge as a system or "linkage of processes," whose purpose is pragmatic or practical. The continual creation of knowledge entails action that leads to valued outcomes. Knowledge--and thus, action--can change and grow as the underlying concepts and beliefs employed to create it also change with additional experience and testing. This view neatly lends itself to organizational strategies and models directed at continuous quality improvement. Several organizations have adopted such models. All such models feature three components. A charter is developed which provides purposes and expected results for a Quality team. Next, a team's current knowledge, concepts, and beliefs are articulated and evaluated in the context of the charter. The final component is a clearly-stated cycle for learning and improvement, which in turn consists of four parts ("Plan," "Do," "Study," "Act"). The model especially highlights learning and continuous improvement in the same way that Lewis's epistemology emphasizes the pragmatic creation and recreation of concepts useful for interpreting experience, verifying beliefs, and guiding actions.

Keywords

Quality plan,Shewhart, Walter A.,Continuous improvement (CI),Deming, W. Edwards,Quality philosophy,Quality control (QC)


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