Every organization, no matter how big or small can be broken down into multiple parts or processes that it uses to carry out every aspect of its operation. So when it comes to making improvements to its operations an organisation usually starts with identifying which processes need to be changed or improved in order to get the most bang for its buck… and this is where the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle comes in to play.
One of the most effective tools or models used to achieve this is something called the Plan-Do-Check-Act or PDCA cycle. This model forms the basis for two of the world’s most popular ISO management standards, namely ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. It can also be found in any number of today’s more popular business improvement systems.
What is Plan-Do-Check-Act?
The PDCA is a fundamental model to encourage continuous improvement of business processes and it can be found in almost every type of process improvement system including;
- Product lifecycle management
- Project management,
- Supply chain management
- Human resources management.
This four-part cycle forms the basis of a management model that has been used for decades to create some of the most popular process improvement systems being used today.
The PDCA cycle in more detail
The model itself doesn’t offer any details, but it gives the developer a simple blueprint against which they can build an actionable management system for process improvement. Below is a description of each part of the PCDA model:
Plan to do something. This may involve developing a process or procedure to tackle an activity required as part of the business. It may also involve locating a problem area that is in need of fixing. Managers would then gather as much supporting data and get to the root cause or causes.
Implement the plan and do. Once you’ve come up with a workable plan to tackle or solve the problem, and developed metrics to measure the progress in order to gauge effectiveness.
Verify the results by comparing the data collected against expectations, before the changes and after the changes were made.
Document all of the results and share with others the changes that were made and what the results were. Make recommendations for the full implementation of any improvements and agreed changes for the next cycle of PDCA.
Why is the PDCA model so effective?
There are several people who are credited with the evolution of the Plan-Do-Check-Act model, but there are two who stand out; Dr. W. Edward Deming and Walter A. Shewhart. Both men were respected American engineers and statisticians that spent a lot of time and energy in the fields of quality improvement and process controls.
They understood the theories behind the PDCA cycle and how they can be effective in helping any organisation, regardless of industry or size to make good, sound changes in their processes. Since these changes are all based solely on the organisation using the Plan-Do-Check-Act system the results are most likely to be effective.
Since the PDCA model is part of most process improvement systems, it can be a very effective tool for organisations to use on an ongoing basis. A business that continues to evolve and improve is one that generally is successful and profitable.
Where can the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle be found?
The PDCA or Deming Cycle as it is commonly referred is used to form the basis for the ISO 9001 standards and TQM (Total Quality Management) system. These are two of the most widely accepted of all business management frameworks and are highly respected for their results. However, that is just the beginning, you are going to find the PDCA model in most process or management improvement systems being used today.
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