PDCA: How Can this Tool Help You?

Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle
MindTools.com

You may have heard of PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act), but how much do your really know and understand about it? Have you tried using this method in the past? Was it successful? If it wasn’t successful, what may have contributed towards its ineffectiveness? These are some questions you should ask yourself before making a true, valiant effort towards a newly crafted pilot program or process improvement. The PDCA cycle also known as the shewhart cycle or Deming cycle is essentially a process involving four steps which is enacted to improve business processes. Many large companies such as Toyota and Motorola have enacted the processes of PDCA to help improve processes in order to gain greater levels of productivity and efficiency.

Step-By-Step

In order to truly make the PDCA cycle effective, all four steps of the cycle need to be implemented. If even just one step is overlooked, it essentially throws off the whole cycle and may jeopardize the results. It is also important to remember that a cycle is circular, it is not simply a one-way plan, but instead certain steps of the process may be revisited depending upon need. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the critical steps of this process.
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    • Plan: This is usually the first step in the process cycle. In this step, a problem or issue is usually identified and the opportunity is taken to start planning for a change.
      [sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Mindtools.com” quotestyle=”style02″]You may find it useful to use tools like Drill Down, Cause and Effect Diagrams, and the 5 Whys to help you really get to the root of it. Once you’ve done this, it may be appropriate for you to map the process that is at the root of the problem. [/sws_blockquote_endquote] You may find it useful to use tools like Drill Down, Cause and Effect Diagrams, and the 5 Whys to help you really get to the root of it. Once you’ve done this, it may be appropriate for you to map the process that is at the root of the problem.

 

    • Do: Once the change has been developed, it is time to test the change. This can be done in a variety of different ways. For instance, you could brainstorm a few different solutions and then scrutinize each solution based upon its strengths and weaknesses. In addition, testing the change could also be done using a pilot. This involves working with only a small area or small group of people to basically “try-out” the new changes and then report feedback.

 

    • Check: This stage involves checking the results of the test and identifying what has been learned. At this stage, you may either determine that the results are as desired and move onto the act stage or you may go back to one of the previous steps.
      [sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Mindtools.com” quotestyle=”style02″]Depending on the success of the pilot, the number of areas for improvement you have identified, and the scope of the whole initiative, you may decide to repeat the “Do” and “Check” phases, incorporating your additional improvements. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]

 

  • Act: The fourth step in the cycle is act. This step involves implementing the successful solution. Even when you do reach this step you may need to go back to the other steps from time to time to ensure success and overall sustainability.

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It is important to remember that the PDCA is not just a one-time thing that can be done once and then forgotten about. Instead, the cycle should be revisited often as it elicits helpful tools to keep the momentum flowing with continuous improvement. Strive for excellence by enlisting the help of a PDCA cycle in your business today.

Resource: MindTools.com – Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

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