PDCA Introduction: The Deming Cycle or The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model is a proven framework for implementing continuous quality improvement. These four steps provide the framework for continuous improvement. The PDCA cycle basically starts with a plan and ends with an action in accordance with the information learned during the process. In later years Deming actually changed the Check portion to the term Study to highlight the creation and validation of new knowledge during that portion of the cycle.
The Basic Description of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Model
Plan: The Plan stage should take up 50% of your efforts and it is where you define the customer objectives or the problem statement and determine the conditions and methods required to achieve the objectives. It is imperative that you clearly describe the customer need you must fulfill and the goals and policies required to achieve the objectives at this stage. A specific target should be documented numerically, if possible, and the procedures and conditions for the means and methods to achieve the target must be described.
Summary of the Plan Stage:
- State the objective of the change.
- Define causes within the current state that keep the system from achieving the objective.
- Determine baseline measurements of the existing process.
- Understand the causes that make up the problem.
- Decide what needs to change to eliminate the problem.
- Develop a plan to carry out the change
Do: In the Do stage, conditions are created and the necessary training or additional support to execute the plan is implemented. It is important that the sales/marketing teams completely understand the objectives and the plan and are in agreement with the procedures needed to fulfill the plan. The work is then performed according to these procedures.
Summary of the Do Stage:
- Implement the change in a trial form.
- Adjust and modify where needed.
- Document what you have learned, both expected and unexpected.
Check: In the Check stage, one must check to determine whether work is progressing according to the plan and whether the expected results are obtained. The performance of the set procedures must be checked against changes in conditions, or deviations may appear. As often as possible, the results of the work should be compared with the objectives. If a check detects a deviation (actual value differs from the target value) then a search for the cause of the deviation must be initiated to prevent its recurrence.
Summary of the Check Stage:
- Analyze the data.
- Compare data to predictions.
- Summarize what was learned from the trial.
- Proceed with full implementation if results are acceptable or return to the Plan phase.
Act: If the Action stage determines that the work is not being performed according to plan or those results are not what were anticipated, measures must be devised for appropriate action and you go back thru the next project.
Summary of the Act Stage:
- Standardize changes learned into the implementation.
- Complete the data analysis and verify to the target.
- Establish the process/controls needed to monitor.
- Maintain the improvement over time.
- Determine when the next improvement cycle is needed.
What people forget about Lean is that it is the change agent for an organization. In its simplest form, you first go and see the current state. Second, you visualize your process. You make your process steps visible. You visualize things in a way that reveals your problems, not in a way to hide problems. If you understand what standards are, how the process should work because it’s very clear, then whenever we see a variation from the process we react immediately. This allows you to choose one problem from the other and just solves them one by one. This is incredibly powerful, this vision we have with lean systems of increasing our competency, increasing our training without having to take people off line, without having to get to classrooms, but by building it into the way we work. It is this empowering aspect that is not easy. But it may be the only way an organization can master Lean.