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Factsheet – Plan, Do, Check, Act

by Chris Turley

PDCA – supporting performance excellence

Continuous improvement is a critical factor in achieving operational excellence, one of the three factors of performance excellence.


Continuous improvement is ‘making changes in a controlled way’.
PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is a process to follow when you need to make a change or have a problem to solve.

PDCA is a cycle of 4 repetitive steps originally conceived in the 1930’s by
Walter Shewart, which was adopted, developed and widely promoted by
W. Edwards Deming in the 1950’s, and is now one of the fundamentals of

Quality Management and continuous quality improvement, forming the basis for modern process thinking such as Six Sigma, TQM, SPC and TS16949.

PDCA is above all a ‘thinking way’

Plan what you want to achieve, the time you’ve allocated to achieve it and what you need to do to get there.
•  Identify, analyse and define the problem or improvement
•  Use 7 QC Tools, Cause & Effect and 5Why.
•  Set a measurable goal
•  Develop solutions and actions

Do the tasks in your plan
•  Implement, and embed the solutions

Check the results of what you did Vs What you wanted to achieve by doing it
•  Gather and analyse data
•  Evaluate the results

Act on the results you achieved
•  Plan actions to achieve your goal
•  Standardise the solution
•  Plan for further improvement

The advantages of PDCA;
Simple – It’s easy to use.
Effective – The ‘thinking way’ provides a framework for ongoing improvement.
Comprehensive – It links all the necessary stages together in a simple process.
Flexible – It’s easily adapted to a multitude of circumstances.
Engaging – By its nature it fosters and produces teamwork.
Inexpensive – It’s a team focused exercise so there are no additional costs.

How to ensure your PDCA work;

  1. Use a cross functional team.
  2. Develop a simple process to follow, and stick to it (including  common document formats)
  3. Avoid assumptions
    Your PDCA is only as robust as the information it’s based on, so don’t assume anything, check everything.
  4. Visualise the information and data you use (7 QC Tools)
  5. Act is where we most commonly fail
    Experience shows us that we’re generally pretty good at Plan, not bad at Do and Check but poor at Act, so make sure you follow up on your results by either taking appropriate corrective actions or by cascading your solutions across your business.

PDCA provides a simple and effective basis for the majority of business and quality improvement activities and forms the ‘thinking way’ on which Lean QCD’s Cascaded Problem Solving is based.

For further tools, tips and information visit our website @ www.LeanQCD.com

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