Reviewed by Jan 29, 2021| Updated on
A four-step cyclic problem-solving technique known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle is used to improve business processes. It was initially developed by the American Physicist, Walter A. Shewhart in the 1920s.
The creation of the cycle was inspired by the continuous assessment of management's will and practices to adopt and dismiss unsupported ideas.
The method was popularised by quality control pioneer, Dr W Edwards Deming in the 1950s and first devised the term "Shewhart" Cycle named after his mentor. It was Deming who realised the PDCA cycle could be adopted to improve production processes in the U.S. during World War II.
The PDCA cycle can aid in differentiating a company from its competitors. Primarily, in the current corporate world, where anything that can help a company rationalise its processes for cost reduction, profit maximisation, and improvement in customer satisfaction, can offer an advantage.
Many managers, potentially unaware, use the PDCA cycle for directing their organisations, as it embraces the fundamental principles of strategic planning.
The four modules of the PDCA cycle are explained below:
A clearly outlined project plan gives the framework for operation. Importantly, it should reflect the organisation's mission and values. It should also map the project's goals and indicate the best way to meet them.
'Do' is a step where the plan is set in motion. Since the plan was made for a reason, it is important for the people executing to stick to the plan. This stage can be divided into three segments, which includes the personnel training, the actual process of doing the work, and reporting data insights for future evaluation.
Usually, there must be two checks throughout the project. First, the checks should be done together with the implementation to ensure that the project's objectives are being met. Second, a complete review of the project should be done upon completion to enable the addressing of the successes and failures, and to allow any future modifications.
The final step involves corrective actions. Once, the past mistakes have been recognised and accounted for, the PDCA cycle can be redefined and repeated in the future, perhaps to improve the results under new guidelines.
Entities looking to enhance their internal and external processes usually deploy the PDCA methodology to minimise errors and maximise outcomes.
Once brought into effect, companies can repeat the PDCA cycle and make it permanent within their organisation, such as a standard operating procedure. The final stage of taking corrective actions will make the technique ideal for continuous improvement.