The Development of Deming’s Management System

Jan 24 1989 – first presentation of Deming’s “System of Profound Knowledge

  1. Knowledge of variation; statistical theory
  2. Knowledge of the distinction between common causes and special causes
  3. Knowledge about the loss from tampering
  4. Knowledge about the interaction of forces
  5. Knowledge of operational definitions
  6. Knowledge psychology
  7. Knowledge of cooperation and its benefits

It is interesting to see the early formulations of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge. Doing so also illustrates that the process worked well. From this list of 7 to a much more detailed list and then coalescing to the four interrelated components we know so well. It is easy to see, for example, how the first 3 items above all fit very neatly into understanding variation. The earlier formulations to provide some insight into things like how important the concept of operational definitions is (which I see as having become “theory of knowledge”). “Knowledge of cooperation and its benefits” and “Knowledge about the interaction of forces” became “appreciation for a system.”

The New Economics, page 94:

The System of Profound Knowledge provides a lens. It provides a new map of theory by which to understand and optimize that we work in, and thus to make a contribution to the whole country.

Mike Tveite:

The System of Profound Knowledge is, in fancy terms, meta knowledge. It is not specific knowledge. Not knowledge of answers. Rather it is knowledge that leads to questions. It causes you to ask different questions and then you can use subject matter knowledge to come up with your answers.


I achieved my goal by not my aim. That happens a lot, we honestly translate aims to goals. And then we do stupid things in the name of the goal that gets it the way of the aim. We forget the aim sometimes and put the goal in its place.

Related: Enumerative and Analytic StudiesThe Essential Deming, Book on Dr. Deming’s Work edited by Joyce OrsiniSpeech by Dr. Deming to Japanese Business Leaders in 1950

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