Plan Do Check Act (PDCA)

Assume your customer satisfaction rating on a business review site has dropped. When you examine the most recent comments, you’ll notice that your customers are complaining about late deliveries and damaged merchandise in transit. 

So you decide to execute a month-long trial project with a new supplier, delivering your items to a select group of clients. And you’re relieved to learn that the response has been positive. As a result, you decide to place all of your future orders with the new provider. 

The PDCA Cycle is a single loop that you’ve just completed. This is a tried-and-true method for attaining continual business improvement.

What Does PDCA Stand For? 

Dr William Edwards Deming, a management consultant, devised a method for determining why some goods or processes don’t operate as expected in the 1950s. His strategy has subsequently become a widely used strategy tool in a variety of enterprises. It enables them to develop beliefs about what needs to change and then test those theories in a “constant feedback loop.”


Plan-Do-Study-Act was a concept adopted by Deming himself (PDSA). He discovered that Check is more concerned with the implementation of a modification. 

Instead, he preferred to concentrate on analysing the outcomes of any improvements and returning to the original strategy. He emphasised that new knowledge is always guided by a theory, so you should be as certain as possible that your theory is correct!

The PDCA Cycle Has Four Phases 

The PDCA cycle allows you to address problems and execute solutions in a systematic and logical manner. Let’s take a closer look at each of the four stages one by one: 

1. Plan 

To begin, identify and comprehend your issue or opportunity. Perhaps the quality of a finished product isn’t up to par, or a part of your marketing strategy should be improved. 

Examine all of the information accessible. Develop a solid execution plan after generating and screening ideas. 

Make sure your success criteria are stated and as measurable as possible. Later in the Check stage, you’ll come back to them.

2. Do 

Once you’ve found a viable solution, put it to the test in a small-scale pilot project. This will indicate whether your suggested adjustments accomplish the desired result – and, if they don’t, how little interruption they cause to the rest of your organisation. You could, for example, conduct a trial inside a department, in a specific geographic area, or with a specific demography. 

Gather data while you run the pilot project to see if the change was successful. This will be used in the next stage.

3. Check

Next, compare the results of your pilot project to the criteria you established in Step 1 to determine whether your concept was a success. 

Return to Step 1 if it wasn’t. Proceed to Step 4 if it was. 

You might want to repeat the Do and Check steps if you want to try out more modifications. However, if your initial idea isn’t functioning, you’ll need to go back to Step 1.

4. Act

This is where you put your answer into action. But keep in mind that PDCA/PDSA is a loop, not a step-by-step procedure. Your enhanced method or product becomes the new standard, but you keep looking for ways to improve it. 

In Figure 1, the four stages of the cycle are depicted:

When Should You Use PDCA? 

In all sorts of companies, the PDCA/PDSA structure works well. It may be used to improve any process or product by breaking it down into smaller parts or development stages and examining how each one can be improved. 

It’s very useful for executing TQM or Six Sigma efforts, as well as for optimising business processes in general. 

The PDCA/PDSA cycle, on the other hand, can take significantly longer than a basic, “gung ho” implementation. As a result, it might not be the best strategy for dealing with a pressing issue. 

It also necessitates strong buy-in from team members and limits prospects for radical innovation, which may be exactly what your company requires.

How to Improve Your Personal Performance Using PDCA 

While PDCA/PDSA is a powerful commercial tool, it may also be used to boost personal performance: 

  • First, Plan: make a strategy: Determine what’s holding you back and how you want to move forward. Examine the underlying reasons of any problems and make goals to address them. 
  •  Next, Do: Then, once you’ve settled on a plan of action, try out a few alternative approaches to attaining the outcomes you desire in a safe environment. 
  • Then, Check: Evaluate your progress on a frequent basis, make necessary adjustments to your conduct, and evaluate the repercussions of your actions. 
  • Finally, Act: Put what’s working into practise, keep refining what isn’t, and keep the cycle of continuous improvement going.

Points to Remember 

The planning, doing, checking (or studying), and acting (PDCA/PDSA) cycle is a continuous loop of planning, doing, checking (or studying), and acting. It offers a straightforward and practical approach to problem-solving and change management. Before upgrading procedures and working habits, the model can be used to test improvement measures on a small scale. 

The method begins with a planning phase in which problems are clearly identified and understood, as well as a theory for improvement. In the Do phase, potential solutions are tested on a small scale, and the results are then evaluated and checked. 

Before implementing the entire, finished solution in the Act phase of the cycle, go through the Do and Check phases as many times as necessary.


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