OJL  Vol.3 No.2 , June 2014
Does Deming’s “System of Profound Knowledge” Apply to Leaders of Biodiversity Conservation?

The challenges of ecological and environmental change are significant and solutions remain largely under the influence of people and the decisions of governments, interest groups, national and local communities and individuals. Evidence suggests that despite 20 years of effort, conservation initiatives have failed to achieve the targets set for protecting biodiversity in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity 2010. A common factor influencing effectiveness of conservation work undertaken by the diverse mix of government, non-government and civil organisations is leadership. A command-and-control approach to leadership is commonly encountered in conservation and previous reviews suggest this as a major factor in ineffective conservation initiatives. This suggests that conservation leaders should consider a fundamentally different approach to leadership. We examine whether an alternative paradigm, Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge, offers a suitable new basis for leadership in biodiversity conservation. This “Systems Thinking” approach should encompass (i) an understanding of natural systems, (ii) a sense of how human behaviour is influenced, (iii) an understanding of how knowledge should inform decision-making and problem solving, and (iv) an understanding of variation in natural systems. Current paradigms of conservation management fail to address these four fundamentals and therefore do not represent the most effective way to manage conservation. Conversely, challenges and opportunities encountered in biodiversity conservation are well-aligned to a Systems Thinking approach. Leadership approaches defined in Deming’s “System of Profound Knowledge” offer significant positive impacts on biodiversity conservation achievement and provide lessons for leaders in other areas of human activity.

Cite this paper
Black, S. & Copsey, J. (2014). Does Deming’s “System of Profound Knowledge” Apply to Leaders of Biodiversity Conservation?. Open Journal of Leadership, 3, 53-65. doi: 10.4236/ojl.2014.32006.
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