Profound Knowledge Is a Journey

W. Edwards Deming created a quality concept he referred to as profound knowledge. As a lean practitioner the study of Deming’s Profound Knowledge System is a must. I believe many practitioners are unknowingly retracing this journey.


There are four aspects of profound knowledge.

System Appreciation

Knowledge of variation

Theory of Knowledge


How does this relate to the average lean practitioner? If your reading this your probably on your own lean journey. There is something that drives you to understand the complexities of business structure. The more you learn the greater your understanding becomes of strengths, weaknesses, opportunity and threats of complex business systems. Your thoughts of providing a quality product or service the least waste way has evolved from a slogan to a competitive necessity.

This necessity moves you to critique yourself and your organization. Once you attain even a small bit of lean thinking you marvel that a profitable quality product can even be produced in the chaos of your organization.

The first ah ha is variation; you begin to see it everywhere. While most want to solve a specific issues as they arise you begin to look at the process that allowed the issue to occur. Can we tweak the process a bit? Sometimes a small process change one almost unnoticeable can yield substantial results.

Eventually you wonder about the best methods to infuse lean ideals and thinking into the culture. Not drive down their throat in cultist fashion but lead by example.  In the meantime you work to teach peers and enlightening management.  How do individuals’ learn? What motivates them to act? Finally you revive some of your old business school teachings you have found relevant in practice and blend with your lean tools. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs come to mind.

A lean practitioner might not recognize this is simply the path to “Profound Knowledge” Deming wrote about. We have many ah ha moments along our lean journey but the final one will be profound. Once that happens if ever we will start over because that’s where the path will lead us.

Good Luck in Your Profound Journey!

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