PDCA Cycle

PDCA Cycle. The plan-do-check-act or PDCA cycle is a project tool that creates a template for initiating improvements in the workplace. Learn how to implement the PDCA methodology, so you and your team can optimize productivity.

What Is the PDCA Cycle?

The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle is a four-step template for generating continuous improvements in production and business processes. The PDCA model aims to establish effective strategies for optimizing workflows. As a problem-solving tool, the PDCA cycle is adaptable across industries. Implementing the PDCA process can streamline production systems, reduce manufacturing errors, and optimize results.

The Origins of the PDCA Cycle

An early iteration of the PDCA cycle, the Shewhart cycle, originated in the first half of the twentieth century when engineer and statistician Walter Shewhart developed a method of quality control inspired by the scientific method. During the second half of the twentieth century, statistician W. Edwards Deming advanced Shewhart’s model and adapted the method for process development.

Today, the PDCA cycle is the common term for Deming’s project planning and management process. Both large and small corporations can implement the interactive process to create an improvement cycle for new initiatives, manufacturing outputs, and project management issues.

The 4 Elements of the PDCA Cycle

The PDCA model aims to identify process improvements. The four main components of the PDCA model are:

  1. Plan: The project planning phase is the first step of the PDCA process. During this time, it’s important to gather as much information as possible so that so you can identify the root cause of the problem.
  2. Do: The next involves testing out your plan. As you implement your hypothesis on a small scale, you and your team members can identify its success rate.
  3. Check: The check phase allows you to analyze your test results and implement any additional changes. Evaluating your plan is crucial for establishing incremental changes that can help you achieve your project goals.
  4. Act: The final stage is the act phase. Upon testing and reviewing your plan, implement the new change. Since the PDCA cycle emphasizes continuous improvement, return to the first step to revise and adapt your plan to factor in any updated circumstances.

How to Use the PDCA Cycle

Follow these steps to use the PDCA cycle:

  1. Identify the problem. Evaluate previous performance metrics and processes with all stakeholders to identify what’s working and what needs adjusting. Some key points to consider include project goals, timelines, and success measurements. Identifying important baseline objectives and evaluations will help you develop a strategy that best resolves the problem.
  2. Develop a hypothesis. After gathering the information, develop a hypothesis that addresses the problem. Your hypothesis should include the proposed solution and the measurements for assessing its viability.
  3. Test your solution. For minimal risk, implement your hypothesis in a small-scale, controlled environment. Gather as much data as possible during this stage so you can later revise and improve any faulty aspects of your plan.
  4. Analyze your test results. After running through your plan, review the information you collect. Focus on examining the before and after results to compare how your solution impacted the overall system process or product. If your solution fails to generate the expected results, revisit the planning stage and develop a new hypothesis.
  5. Implement your solution. Apply your solution to the system or product, following the plan you created in the previous steps. Train all stakeholders involved in the new process so your team understands the approach.
  6. Adjust to new circumstances. Since the PDCA cycle emphasizes continuous improvement, it helps foster a growth mindset. Considering new developments and adjusting to sudden changes in circumstances helps optimize productivity over time.