PDCA is the abbreviation of Plan, Do, Check and Act, which is a systematic approach to improve business processes, and to solve problems. The methodology itself is a commonly
used management tool, with the clear intent to revise and improve a business process through a systematic cycle.
The PDCA methodology was first introduced by Walter A. Shewhart, but the cycle spread around the World thanks to W. Edwards Deming, who popularized it from the middle of the
20th century, increasing its reputation. Thanks to the shape (circle) and the creators of the method, it is called in many names, such as:
- PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Cycle
- Deming Cycle, Deming Wheel, Deming Circle
- Shewhart Cycle
- PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act)
All quality-driven organization that adopted TQM (Total Quality Management) principles use the PDCA, since it is an effective and easy to use method in project- and
. It helps to plan, upgrade, measure, trace changes and improvements in case of any business process.
The PDCA (Deming) cycle (Source: qMindset.com; deming.org)
The cycle itself consists of four phases. The original naming of the phases was Plan, Do, Check and Act, but Deming later modified it to Plan, Do, Study and Act, resulting
the new concept of PDSA.
|The four phases of the Deming cycle
|PDCA / PDSA phase
|Tasks and activities
|Problem identification, process revision
Design of modified business process (theory formulation)
Determination of goals and success metrics
|Carrying out small-scale studies
Implementation, execution of planned components
Planning of measurement
|Check / Study
|Measuring and monitoring the outcomes
Analysis of outcomes (before and after comparison)
Verification of progress
|Stabilizing and standardizing the improvement (change), by the re-adjustment of goals, modifying methods, re-form theory
Complete implementation of the working
improvement and "Lessons Learned"
Carrying on to Plan phase again (lifting the improvement to further levels)
Remark: measurement and monitoring of outcomes sometimes start already in the "Do" phase, but deming.org mentions it in the "Study" section (former "Check" phase).
PDCA is a major part of continuous improvement, and thus it is not a one-loop cycle. On the contrary, it is a never ending improvement cycle with multiple (almost endless)
iterations. The methodology itself is simple, but the breakthrough of it was that it simplified the already available knowledge, and filled it into a cycle with 4 major steps, giving a methodical approach to
those who are willing to improve. The statement of "never ending" cycle also fits to everyday life: improvement never stops.
The PDCA methodology is comparable to the Six Sigma
DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyse-Improve-Control) model,
with the same intention: business process improvement and problem solving
Source: qMindset.com; deming.org
The usage of PDCA in the company creates culture of problem solving and analytic thinking.
PDCA is usable not only for initiating process improvement projects, but can help product and design improvement. It is strongly suggested to follow the PDCA steps before
letting loose an improperly planned change on the organization.