The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle, is a four-step model for carrying out change in business processes. It is a continuous loop of planning, implementation, monitoring, and review used to achieve and improve products and services.
The stages of the PDCA Cycle are:
- Plan: Identify a goal or the need for change and develop a process or a plan to achieve the desired outcome. This could include analyzing the current situation, defining the objectives, and determining the methods to reach these objectives.
- Do: Implement the plan, execute the process, make the product. This is the action phase where you execute the planned changes on a small scale to test their effectiveness.
- Check: Monitor the outcomes, measure the results and compare them against the expected results (the objective defined in the Plan phase). This helps to identify any deviations and understand their causes.
- Act: If the plan was successful, implement it on a wider scale and continuously assess your results. If the plan was not successful, go through the cycle again with a different plan. Here, you will standardize the improvements and prepare the next cycle by adjusting the goals and processes based on the feedback and learnings from the test phase.
The PDCA Cycle is a part of many quality management systems, and it provides a simple and effective approach for problem-solving and managing change. It emphasizes the need for continuous improvement in achieving effective and efficient results.
Example of the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle
Let’s consider an example of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle in a hypothetical manufacturing company that’s trying to reduce its product defect rate:
- Plan: The company’s current defect rate is 5%. The company sets a new goal to reduce the defect rate to 3%. It analyses the production process and identifies a few areas where improvements can be made. The company decides to implement better quality control measures, provide additional training to employees, and update some of its manufacturing equipment.
- Do: The company implements the new plan on a small scale first, within a single department or for a specific product line. It conducts the additional employee training, installs the new equipment, and starts its improved quality control measures.
- Check: After a set period of time, the company reviews the defect rate for the department or product line where the changes were implemented. The company finds that the defect rate has decreased to 3.5% which, while an improvement, is not the 3% goal they set.
- Act: The company analyses the results and realizes that while the new equipment and quality control measures helped, the additional training didn’t have as much of an impact as expected. The company decides to revise its plan to include more hands-on training and a mentoring program. The revised plan is then implemented in the next PDCA cycle.
The PDCA Cycle continues until the company achieves its goal of a 3% defect rate. Once achieved, the successful changes are standardized across all production lines, and the company then identifies the next opportunity for improvement, continuing the cycle of continuous improvement.