What is PDCA?
PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is the most common terminology across the majority of lean and continuous improvement methodologies. It is a structured approach to problem solving and decision making. But what happens when your team isn’t quite getting results? Is it a lack of understanding on your part? Is there a lack of buy-in from the workforce? This article will provide you with three fundamentals for effective PDCA that can help guide you and your team on the journey to continuous improvement. You’ll learn everything you need to know about PDCA cycle and how to get the most out of it.
The most important aspect of implementing any kind of process or methodology is understanding what it means and how it works. If your team doesn’t see the value in what they are doing, then you need to find a way to make it work for them. You need to effectively communicate the purpose of your methodology, and you need to ensure that they understand what continuous improvement is, and why it’s important. Without buy-in from your workforce, you’ll get nowhere with lean management methodologies.
The Deming Cycle, or the PDCA cycle, is one of the most important management tools for continuous improvement that has ever been developed. And yet, with all its importance, it is also one of the most misunderstood concepts in quality management.
The PDCA cycle is a critical tool in any manager’s toolkit. The PDCA cycle is also known as the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle or the Shewhart cycle after Walter A. Shewhart, the American engineer who popularized it. He used this approach to improve industrial processes. Over time, this cycle has been adapted for use in process improvement in fields ranging from software development to medical devices and commercial flights. This process can be applied to all types of projects and is an excellent method for analyzing a situation and determining what should be done next. Obviously, this cycle is also present in other types of structures including: Iterative Development, Scrum, Lean Production, Pareto Analysis, Extreme Efficiency, Just the facts, Left-brain/Right-brain thinking, etc.
What is the purpose of PDCA cycle?
PDCA cycle is a simple and systematic way of performing continuous improvement. It involves the 4 stages as follows: Plan, Do, Check, and Act, where Plan means identify the problem, Do is the correction of the problem through various tests or trials, Check shows the results of the corrections, and Act means to make a choice between the old and the new.
Another view of PDCA:
Four questions need to be addressed before you start PDCA cycle:
1. What is the best way to implement PDCA in a workplace?
2. How to ensure your methodology is a success?
3. How can you ensure that you are effectively implementing PDCA?
4. How to keep your team motivated and on track?
PDCA is a structured approach to problem solving and decision making – It’s simple to start if we know the goals, metrics (trend, e.g., no. of product recalls or no. of customer complaints) and KPIs (e.g., the future state – outcome measurement, results).
Basics of a PDCA cycle
In Quality Management and Continuous Improvement, the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle is a popular cycle which helps organizations in identifying and solving critical problems. The cycle helps in continuous improvement of performance through a series of small, specific, and focused steps, including planning, doing, and checking for results.
Four phases of PDCA and how they work together:
These four steps work in a cyclical process that is repeated in response to the environment, customer and other internal and external feedback.
Plan: This is where the goals are set. Plans on their own are not sufficient to achieve success. They need to be specific – so what needs to be done needs to be identified.
Do: The goal setting informs what needs to be done to achieve the goal. This includes how much time and resources need to be pledged to achieve the goal.
Check: This is where the goal is accomplished and
Act: This is where we define and measure outcome.
It’s no secret that a solid foundation of processes is crucial for any business. But it’s not enough to simply set up a few systems and let them run on their own. You can’t simply automate your way to success. If you want to retain customers, you need to make sure your systems are working as they’re supposed to. This is where we run PDCA and re-run PDCA again (and again) to keep improving.
Things to remember
Start by identifying the problem or issue, and identify what factors have contributed to it. Possible solutions are then generated and categorized as “Solving,” “Improving” or “Accepting”. Next, select a potential solution and execute it. When the action is executed, determine whether the desired outcome is met, or attempted but failed. If the outcome is not met, return to the step of generating solutions and repeating the cycle.
The basic PDCA loop
The key principle of following the PDCA cycle relates to considering every activity in the cycle as a learning experience. In implementing the PDCA cycle, managers need to actively take note of the results of their decisions, actions, and interventions. This active learning process enables managers to learn from their mistakes, and to improve the outcomes of their efforts. The key principle of following the PDCA cycle can also be listed as “look for easy but systematic ways to limit the scope of what can happen in problem-solving and decision-making. The key principle of following the PDCA cycle is to focus on what topics, concepts, or problems they need to address.
1. Plan: Define the action you will take – Define the Objective, Identify the Action, Identify the Measurements, Identify the resources needed (people, cost, machines, machine time, etc.). Planning is a process of developing a step-by-step cycle of activities intended to accomplish a specific goal. Successful plans use established criteria, strategies, and plans. Many people are responsible for developing a plan, and this often starts with a goal or need.
2. Do: Do is the actual carrying out of the plan. Do is the correction of the problem through various tests or trials.
3. Check: Put the above action to test and measure the results – Check to see if the action is still improving your results. Check shows the results of the corrections.
4. Act: Define and measure the return on that action – Actions taken include the execution or implementation of the plan. Evaluate how well the action is doing and whether it’s improving your results and achieving your goals – If the results of action are not meeting the expectations, re-execute the action.
Fundamentals of PDCA: Identify the Problem, Find the Corrective Action, Take Action, and Assess Results
Think about this for a minute — you are on a team of quality chemists creating a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for incoming raw materials. The formulation and quality teams are sitting at their desks next to their workstations. The project is well underway, but the team is struggling with metrics. How should you approach this situation? Should the team follow the traditional “Do-Check-Act” method where each action results in a check, plus a new action, and an action that is evaluated based on whether it has improved the results (e.g., quality of raw material or service) or not or are we making progress? Should there be targets and KPIs that are assigned based on these metrics? Should there be specific actions and output that are measured against these targets? Or could you instead follow a different, yet straightforward, path to developing a better document based on the company’s best practices and even building a target and KPIs on a weekly and monthly basis to collect data and measure success? This approach is called the Plan-Do-Check-Act method.
For successful implementation, using the above example, the quality team should consider the timeframe to communicate the procurement staff, conduct a training on pre-launch activity for SOP, follow-up, retraining (if necessary), and perform regular audits to determine the impact of new SOP changes and team compliance.
PDCA is the cornerstone of lean management & Problem Solving
There are six core fundamentals that will help provide structure to your Problem Solving and Decision Making activities, which in turn will lead you down the path to continuous improvement with efficiency.
Understanding the following six pillars of effective PDCA can lead you and your team on the journey to continuous improvement. Your team can learn a lot about implementing an effective PDCA. It will help them to think critically and act decisively when it comes to improvement within the workplace.
The Six Pillars of Lean Management with direct impact on PDCA outcomes
1. Focus on your process before you focus on the problem
2. Identify the problem that needs to be solved
3. Establish the current conditions
4. Set a goal and make it achievable
5. Improve the process & Control the implementation
6. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way!
There’s no better time than right now to start practicing these fundamentals, so get started today!
What are the benefits of PDCA?
PDCA is a continuous improvement that helps a business to analyze their progress, discuss related opportunities or issues, develop improvement strategies, and verify the change. Processes are analyzed after they have been done.
The benefits of using PDCA are that it helps to set realistic goals, monitor the process to your set goals, experiment with new process solutions, and find the opportunity for improvement.
Overview of the PDCA cycle and how it can be used for different business situations
PDCA for Idea generation
The cyclical process known as PDCA is often used in business to analyze business processes and find ways in which these processes can be improved. The PDCA cycle consists of Planning, Do (Perform), Check (Look for information and take notes), Act (Adapt to changes and variations), and then beginning the loop again. This approach is quick, easy, and allows for any necessary adjustments to be made without a great deal of disruption. It’s a great way to break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable steps that are then quickly translated into actionable goals. The ‘Do’ phase can then be used to plan additional activities to complete the cycle. One popular application of the PDCA process is idea generation.
In a nutshell, the PDCA cycle says that, before creating any kind of change, you need to get the project clear on three things: what needs to change, what needs to be measured, and what needs to be done.
PDCA to make change in your work culture
PDCA is a business methodology that helps avoid complications in workplace culture. It is a systematic guide for decision-making for business owners. As stated earlier, the process consists of four steps: Plan: Plan the steps involved in the action Do: Do the action Check: Check what has been done Act: Get rid of anything that is no longer necessary. It is important to use this process even if you are only changing one thing about the environment. If your goal is to create a more inclusive work environment, you would have to do the following: Plan: Plan to change a policy, for example. Do: Create a policy or change an existing policy. Check: Get feedback from employees about how the change is going and Act: Act to make the work culture better and make adjustments if needed.
Now that you understand the fundamentals of effective PDCA, you can apply it to any situation in your business that requires improvement.
The PDCA Cycle is a fundamental business process that can drive success in business. It starts with Plan, where goals are set. During the Do phase, the goals are met. This drives the cycle back to Plan to complete the cycle. It is a widely used planning model for improving processes and products for customer satisfaction and success.
Conclusion: PDCA is a common practice in the lean community, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy to implement. In this article, we have provided different ways that can help ensure your team is successful with implementing PDCA and achieving results through continuous improvement.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on PharmaRead are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency or organization. PharmaRead articles are provided for information only with focus on global health, pharmacy practice, and healthcare systems in Low- and Middle-income Countries (LMICs). Readers should seek expert opinion for use, implementation or application of this knowledge based on their individual circumstances.