What is the PDCA Cycle (Plan Do Check Act Methodology)?

Defining the PDCA and the Deming Cycles

The PDCA cycle (Plan Do Check Act) is a methodology to develop and customize internal organizational procedures for quality, project, and problem management. The Deming cycle is the visual representation of that model. In other words, while the PDCA cycle is a systematic method for continuous process improvement, the Deming cycle is its comprehensive diagram. It comprises four iterative steps:

The following article examines the origins, steps, iterations, and uses of the PDCA and Deming cycles.

The Origins of the PDCA and Deming Cycles

The PDCA cycle, also known as the Shewhart or Deming cycle, originated in the work of physicist Walter Shewhart in the 1920s. However, the subsequent development of the method was primarily the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. In the 1940s, Deming adapted Shewhart’s cycle to management.

He then exported these concepts to Japan in the 1950s, contributing to that country’s quality management breakthrough.1 The underlying philosophy of the PDCA method gained popularity through its integration with the principles of Lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System (TPS). In the 1980s, Deming modified the cycle title, renaming it PDSA (Plan Do Study Act) to emphasize the importance of analysis rather than mere inspection.2

The 4 Steps of the PDCA Cycle (Plan Do Check Act)

Step 1: Plan

The first step in the PDCA cycle (Plan) has four sub-steps:

Step 2: Do

The Do phase of the PDCA process is used to transform planning into concrete action with solutions to the initial problem. It is made up of five sub-phases.

Step 3: Check

You should always address the Check step of the PDCA cycle. It’s essential for judging the effectiveness of actions. Gaps in organizational processes often become apparent at this stage. Unfortunately, many managers fail to return to measure progress at regular intervals. It’s crucial to include this step right from the outset of planning. Sub-steps include:

Step 4: Act

The Act step is the last phase of the PDCA cycle and involves three essential sub-stages:

Iterative Loops of PDCA

The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle is an iterative process because it involves a series of steps that are continually repeated and refined to achieve continuous improvement. The key to the iterative nature of the PDCA cycle is that, having completed the Act phase, one returns to the Plan phase, building on the knowledge and insights gained in the previous cycle.

This feedback loop allows the plan to be perfected based on experience and the results of previous iterations. The process continues, with each cycle building on the lessons learned from the past, enabling improvement and optimization over time.

Applications of the PDCA Cycle

PDCA for quality management

The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle has many applications, particularly in quality management. It creates a systematic approach, enabling organizations to evaluate and improve their processes constantly.

PDCA for process improvement

PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) is a powerful process improvement tool. Its iterative nature enables organizations to adapt to changes, to the emergence of new technologies, or evolving customer demands. This adaptability makes it an invaluable tool for developing new operational processes or improving existing ones. Moreover, PDCA fosters employee involvement at all levels of the organization by encouraging them to share their ideas and observations.

PDCA for project management

Integrating PDCA into project management provides a solid framework for ensuring that projects are appropriately managed, continuously improved, and aligned with overall organizational objectives. Project managers can plan in detail using Gantt charts, visualize milestones, and execute projects methodically. They can also assess their progress by comparing expected results and adjusting strategies as they go along.

PDCA for problem-solving

By following the four phases indicated by the acronym PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act), organizations can systematically tackle problems. This method promotes a well-thought-out, structured approach to problem-solving.

Action Plan Management and Task Tracking Solution

Tervene is an ideal ally for maximizing PDCA efficiency. The solution integrates PDCA boards within workspaces and action plan tracking to simplify ongoing initiative management. Tasks and actions can be easily categorized according to PDCA steps for maximum visibility.

Plus, the application offers verification forms, notably audits, and verification checklists, making it easy to review new project roll-outs. The platform also allows scheduling review periods directly in managers’ calendars to ensure follow-up from the right stakeholders. Tervene transforms the PDCA framework into a powerful resource for continuously improving your processes and projects.