Chapter One – Exposing Meaning

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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(Note: Since this is blogged book, the most recent post is the last post.)

“People like to think that businesses are built of numbers (as in the “bottom line”), or forces (as in “market forces”), or things (“the product”), or even flesh and blood (“our people”). But this is wrong…Businesses are made of ideas — ideas expressed as words.”    – James Champy

The word “Quality” is a noun.  Concrete nouns are people, places or things. Quality is an abstract noun — an idea or concept. Meaningful faith, a meaningful democracy, meaningful quality, and the meaning of being a republican are all useful concepts for relating meaning to the reality of our lives. If you were asked—“What does republican or democrat mean?”—would you turn to a dictionary for the answer?  Perhaps, with some difficulty and critical thinking, you would choose to communicate what republican means in a rich description. You would format your explanation as a pattern of your thoughts. Your thought processes would call upon your knowledge and the principles, concepts and paradigms that you connect with that knowledge.  It would be very difficult for you to communicate what republican means with just a string of words typically found in a dictionary.  The difficulty lies in the nature of the words. Abstract concept nouns like faith, republican, democracy or quality do not belong in the typical dictionary. They cannot be defined. They must be explained to be understood, and understanding is a prerequisite for meaning.

Meaning is best comprehended in rich descriptions that I shall call conceptual patterns. Meaning cannot exist without patterns of thought that are built on a foundation of associated knowledge, principles, concepts and paradigms. If you want to know how to make the experience of being a republican or democrat meaningful perhaps you would do the following and expose the DNA:

  • Recognize the knowledge domains that encapsulate it.
  • Distinguish the domains with a purpose.
  • Express those domains in principles.
  • Categorize and link the concepts captured by principle in a way that is consistent.
  • Forecast the implications as conceptual patterns.
  • Clarifying everything in your own theory that addresses How, What and Why.

When abstract nouns have meaning then, principles that are universal, sound and sustainable is the result. Without universal, sound and sustainable principles — practices are ineffective with short life cycles. That which could be meaningful is left open to interpretation by anyone, at anytime for any purpose. This blog will walk you through a process for capturing and describing the meaning of Quality— OR ANY ABSTRACT NOUN OF YOUR CHOICE and express the results in a theory.

Until his death in December 1993, W. Edwards Deming was working on revisions of his last book, The New Economics, published in 1994. Deming wrote: “Without theory there is nothing to revise. Without theory experience has no meaning. Without theory there is no learning.”

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Meaning from the Professor, the Journalist and the Producer

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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Writing my master’s thesis helped me discover that quality has many definitions. Unfortunately, with little consensus among leading authorities regarding its definition, meaning has eluded many professionals in all functions. Confusion about the meaning of quality is the legacy of management.

In the fall of 1984, David A. Garvin, professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, published an article in the Sloan Management Review (a product of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The title of the article is “What Does ’Product Quality’ Really Mean?” His conclusions offer a glimpse of quality that is still relevant today. “Quality is a complex and multifaceted concept. It is also a source of great confusion: managers—particularly those in different functions—frequently fail to communicate precisely what they mean by the term. The result is often endless debate, and inability to show real progress on the quality front.”

Others have also tackled the meaning of quality.

Lloyd Dobyns, an award winning journalist, and Clare Crawford-Mason, a senior producer at NBC, collaborated with Dr. W. Edwards Deming on the best-selling twenty-volume Deming Video Library. Following up in 1991, they wrote Quality or Else, and in 1994, Thinking About Quality.

Dobyns and Crawford-Mason have outlined the contributions of the most successful and prescient authorities on the subject of quality. Two of their observations got my attention. In Quality or Else they state: “What is interesting years later is that no two of those men—indeed, no two people we have talked to anywhere—agree precisely on how to define quality.”  In Thinking about Quality, they added: “people remain suspicious of the concept of quality”. . .“part of the problem, we think is that the word ’quality‘ doesn’t mean anything concrete.” Perhaps my book will move quality in the direction of concrete from the abstract; but we may miss what is intended, a component of meaning. Keeping quality in the abstract realm avoids defining it as a concrete noun.

 

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Meaning and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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In my last post it was suggested that we may need to seek the meaning of Quality in a biography, or the National Geographic Society or in a rock or a tree.  I think not. Or, maybe, we should ask management in any function to tell us about the meaning of Quality.  I think not. Where else can we look?  This brings us to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Robert Pirsig.

Robert M. Pirsig, a philosopher and author, probably made the most revealing statement about Quality when he said: “If you can’t define something you have no formal rational way of knowing that it exists. Neither can you really tell anyone else what it is. There is, in fact, no formal difference between inability to define and stupidity.”  Pirsig also believed that Quality cannot be defined. Is it feasible that we don’t know that Quality exists? Are we just fooling ourselves? Perhaps Pirsig has no confidence in our ability to define Quality accurately. However, Pirsig clarified his position: “When I say, ‘Quality cannot be defined,’ I’m really saying formally, “I’m stupid about Quality.”   It seems he is relegating the definition of Quality to those who are not “stupid” regarding the subject. Perhaps the paradox can be simply stated—if an authority is not considered stupid about Quality by his or her peers, but still fails to define Quality accurately, then stupidity rears its ugly head.

Pirsig may have a point. Why do we define abstract concepts, like Quality, as if they were trees? Ostensibly, because Quality is an abstract noun, but is not used in the context of definition as one. Abstract nouns have meaning, concrete nouns do not. What is the meaning of a tree? Quality, democracy, and freedom have meaning when thought about critically.

But, is there a problem with defining an abstract noun accurately, assuming accuracy successfully captures meaning?  I will introduce you to Paul Elbourne, a distinguished professor of semantics at the University of London in my next post.

 

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What’s in a Definition?

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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We communicate with a language and concepts. Initially, we must seek concept definitions on the path to meaning; however, definitions only provide a foundation.  But, what’s in a definition? Not much and certainly not necessarily meaning. I turn to Paul Elbourne, a distinguished professor of semantics at the University of London. Semantics is the study of how meaning in language is created by the use and interrelationships of words, phrases, and sentences. The following excerpt is from the introduction of his book entitled Meaning, A Slim Guide to Semantics.

“Words are traditionally supposed to have meanings.  Indeed it is widely supposed to be possible to define word meanings. Whole books, called dictionaries, are devoted to listing the definitions of words; and philosophers from Socrates (469-399 BC) and Plato (429-347 BC) onwards have devoted obsessive attention to pinning down the meaning of philosophically interesting words like knowledge, truth, justice, and indeed meaning.  It is important for anyone embarking upon the study of semantics to realize, however, that defining the meaning of a word is an enterprise of almost inconceivable complexity.  Despite 2,400 years of trying, it is unclear that anyone has ever come up with even the simplest.  Certainly the definitions in dictionaries are the merest hints, and are sometimes flat out wrong. A definition is just a string of words. It is unsatisfying, therefore, to say that the meaning of a word is a definition, because that would be to say that the meaning of a word is just more words. It would appear that we are not progressing to any explanatorily deeper level.”

The purpose of my book is to make progress toward achieving an explanatorily deeper level of meaning, utilizing word patterns. Word patterns improve our ability to attach meaning to a concept, permitting a higher level of comprehension. The mechanics of a pattern can be used as a model for a related idea or process such as a thought pattern or a combination of words that formulate a descriptive explanation—the focus of this chapter. Word patterns are built upon multiple definitions from multiple dictionaries which are then aggregated to create a pattern with some of the same characteristics as weather, voting, or traffic patterns.

We are affected by patterns on a day-by-day basis. Traffic patterns can affect our ability to get to work on time, or impede emergency vehicles. Weather patterns cause drought, flood and icy conditions. We follow a pattern everyday when we drive to work. Our pattern helps us predict how long it will take us to get to work in a timely manner. If we change our pattern, we impact our original prediction. Voting patterns are used to predict election outcomes; weather patterns can predict hurricanes and tornados; and traffic patterns can predict traffic jams. The analysis of patterns can lead to prediction and the avoidance of potential problems.

Abraham Kaplan put it this way in, The Conduct of Inquiry.

“According to the pattern model something is explained when it is so related to a set of other elements that together they constitute a unified system. We understand something by identifying it as a specific part in an organized system. The perception of a pattern is what gives the “click of relation” spoken of in connection with the norms of coherence for the validation of a theory. The pattern is not constituted by our seeing it, but has its focus in a network of objective relations.”

But, where can we find effective networks of objective relations?  Where can we find a master pattern that is a unified system?  I will reveal all in my next post.

 

The DNA Connection – Part One

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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 But, where do we find effective networks of objective relations?  Where can we find a master pattern that is a unified system?  The pattern can be found in biological DNA. The same concepts used by scientist to work with biological DNA can be used in many ways to provide greater meaning and understanding regarding quality.

We can use the concept of DNA to organize our data in a way that promotes a logical approach to finding meaning grounded in knowledge domains, principles, concepts and paradigms. Think of an organization as one of many organisms that populate and represent life on planet earth. Each organism and organization is unique. Organizations and organisms have unique problems, unique relationships with others, and dynamic customer bases. The concept of DNA can be linked to all organizations.

The common bond that makes all organisms part of one big pattern is the genome, and the common bond that links all organizations is quality. The genome is universal to all organisms and quality is universal to all organizations and its functions. A genome contains all of the biological information needed to build and maintain a living example of an organism.

The quality genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain sustainable quality in the 21st century. The biological information contained in the genome is specified in its deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA.

Biological DNA is packaged and stored in an organism’s chromosomes.  Quality DNA is stored in the fields of knowledge that need to be summoned for explanation. Different organisms have different numbers of chromosomes. For example humans have 46, a mosquito 6, onions 16 and a carp 104. Quality DNA is packaged and stored in 21 fields of knowledge.

In my next post I will connect conceptual patterns of explanation and protein.

 

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The DNA Connection – Part Two

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

______________________________________________

DNA provides a detailed set of plans that are manifested in the familiar double helix or DNA strand. Quality DNA strands are principles. The DNA strand is composed of letters, words and sentences that are called genes. The Quality DNA strand is composed of letters, words and sentences called concepts.

Genes contain instructions for making molecules called proteins. Quality genes are manifested in the concepts that are used to describe principles. Genes are the machines that make all living things function.  Genes are instruction manuals for the organism. Concepts are instruction manuals for quality. Although the Quality DNA strand (principle) is the carrier of genetic information (concepts) in a cell (functional organization department), proteins (patterns) do the bulk of the work.

Cells use the information specified in their genes. Each gene in the DNA specifies information about how to make a specific protein. Proteins perform specific functions. For example, the hemoglobin gene creates a protein to capture and carry oxygen. Principle concepts specify information needed to make a specific pattern. Proteins are equivalent to patterns of explanation, with a function that can be traced back to its principle and associated field of knowledge.

DNA cannot make protein without a partner. For example, all genes that specify proteins are first made into an RNA strand.  RNA carries the information contained in the DNA strand out of the nucleus of the cell to the protein assembly machinery called the ribosome. The ribosome complex uses the RNA as a template to synthesize the exact protein specified by the gene.

Quality DNA also needs a partner. All concepts that specify for patterns are first made into synthesized definitions (Quality RNA strands). Quality RNA carries the information specified in principles to the assembly machinery called the Pattern Engine (ribosome). The Pattern Engine uses the synthesized definitions to create the exact pattern specified by the concept. The Pattern Engine is fully explained in chapter seven.

 

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Creating Conceptual Patterns – Proteins

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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When I was an undergraduate and there was a need for a definition recognized as being the most authoritative and of the highest standard, we simply went to the huge dictionary that was available in the library. The volume was placed on its own stand because it was a foot thick and weighed about twenty pounds. Today we don’t have to leave the comfort or convenience of our home office, laptops, smart phone, or iPad to find a definition.  Research is being conducted at the local coffee shop with gusto!  However, the sheer volume of information begs for synthesis. This book offers a solution.

In this digital age and the advent of the internet, online dictionaries are plentiful. On one website more than fifty dictionaries are listed that define the word PURPOSE. Let us take a look at a conventional definition from a conventional dictionary for the abstract concept noun “purpose” and make a comparison. The conventional definition of “purpose” is “something set up as an object or end to be attained,” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 11thedition. Webster’s definition is a string of words.

Now let us compare a pattern for the same noun that has been developed with methods presented in the book.

Purpose is a rational stated motive for an expected state that explains or justifies why something happened that was caused by some previous phenomenon. Purpose represents a likely final state, achievement or result and is associated with the process of logical thinking as a consequence of another action, condition, or event that solves a problem or explains how to solve a problem. Purpose is the reason for which something exists, or for which it has been done or made, and is manifested as an anticipated outcome that is intended or guides planned actions to achieve a desired result.

This pattern is the result of the synthesis of twelve definitions from six different dictionaries—the output of the pattern engine—and is equivalent to a protein.   The pattern engine will be introduced in Chapter Seven. Unlike the conventional definition, a pattern is expressed in complete sentences, and contains related or allied concepts that are further defined and integrated into the pattern with little circularity. Three of the allied concepts in our example are reason, outcome, and result.

We will look at pattern characteristics in my next post.

 

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Conceptual Pattern Characteristics

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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 Close examination of a pattern reveals certain characteristics: 1) they can be used to create a specification, and 2) they are action oriented. For example, a specification for the concept “purpose” might contain the following statements: the reason something is manifested, an anticipated outcome, guides planned action, and rationally stated motive. Actions related to “purpose” would be: explains or justifies, represents a likely final state, uses logical thinking, solves a problem, and explains how to solve a problem. The  patterns that I will be creating are denotative. A noun’s denotation is its literal meaning, the way it would be defined in a dictionary.

According to Edward de Bono — physician, author, inventor and consultant who originated the term lateral thinking, “a pattern is a very efficient way of utilizing information.” Again from de Bono consider this from his book, I am Right You Are Wrong;

“We need a lot of new words to allow us to say and to perceive things which we cannot perceive at the moment. Perception needs a framework just as a scientific examination of evidence needs separate perceptual framework of a hypothesis.  But we also need new words to say fresh things which are now said with concepts that are inadequate or carrying heavy negative baggage. In order to make progress there are a lot of basic concepts that we may need to re-conceptualize.  It is sometimes possible to establish new patterns as the finer discrimination within an existing pattern just as the concept of lateral thinking was established within ‘creativity’.  Patterns can sometimes be changed by adding something to them and eventually shifting their meaning.

As we proceed through the following chapters, I will be continuously relating the elements of Quality DNA to the subject matter. This will help put everything in context. Suffice it to say, at this point, the structure and strategy for identifying the meaning of quality will closely mimic biological DNA and its purpose of building proteins. Following the DNA analogy, we will be building conceptual patterns that are linked to fields of knowledge, expressed in knowledge principles, explicated by concepts and governed by purposeful paradigms.

 

In Summation – Understanding Meaning

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a pattern of allied concepts.

Why seek meaning in conceptual fields of knowledge and those allied concepts, principles and paradigms that describe and control them and then connect them with a theory?

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 The meaning of the word “Quality” cannot be found in a string of words. It is manifested in a collection of knowledge domains, dominated by a diverse set of authorities, expressed in domain principles, explained by conceptual patterns, and governed by individual and organizational paradigms. Armed with the right ingredients, we can then decide how to best communicate the required components in an acceptable manner. We need a recipe—a theory—grounded in the data, that will provide a foundation for meaning to emerge.

There are several keys for developing an explanation leading to the meaning of quality. First is the existence of fields of knowledge or domains that will form the umbrella. Second, each field of knowledge is governed by a paradigm will be reduced to a simple purpose and five principles. Third, each principle contains a number of concepts that are expanded to form patterns of explanation that can be used to create assumptions, and propositions needed for grounded quality theory. Everything is connected—a unified system of objective relations.

We have discovered conceptual patterns built upon linked and allied concepts. Now it’s time for us to put them in context to promote understanding.  In Chapter Two we will explore the concept of “Theory”, in depth.

Patrick Kelly, MSQA

 

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