The PDCA cycle: Plan, Do, Check, Act

PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle refers to a problem-solving technique that consists of four steps to help upgrade business processes. If you are in the supply chain industry, industrial engineering, or business management sector, then implementing the PDCA cycle could help you achieve continuous improvements in your company.

The PDCA technique is also referred to as the Deming Wheel, PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act), or the Shewhart Cycle. If the customer satisfaction score of your business website has decreased, most of your products get damaged while in transit, or many of your customers keep complaining of poor service delivery, then it is time to adopt a new methodical technique that will save your business and improve its performance and delivery.

This improvement cycle was developed during the 1950s by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a management consultant who created a model that identified why some business processes or products fail. The approach of Dr. W. Edwards Deming has allowed businesses to create theories about factors that need to change and how to test the effect that such changes have in a continuous improvement cycle.

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Steps of the PDCA Cycle

The Deming cycle consists of the following 4 steps:

Step 1: Plan

In the planning stage, the organization analyses its current state and compares it with the plans and main goal of the organization in the future. This allows the team members to identify the areas that need improvement in the company, which allows them to come up with the necessary corresponding actions that will lead to continuous improvements to achieve the targets.

Step 2: Do

This is the action stage. It involves putting all the plans outlined in stage one into motion. Since the plans have to be implemented in various departments of the company, coordination and collaboration between departments are paramount.

Step 3: Check

After a specified period of implementation, an evaluation of the results takes place to determine whether the PDSA scientific method was successful. The company does this by determining whether the plans and the set goal were achieved within a specific time after implementing the continuous improvements approach.

Step 4: Act

If the improvement cycle was successful and the results are satisfactory, the company declares the procedure a standard practice for all future plans. In case the model used did not yield sufficient results, the variables are adjusted and the cycle is repeated until the desired goal is attained.

So, how is PDCA used in continuous improvement?

If your organization already uses the Kaizen technique, then implementing the Shrewhart model will work to boost your results. The Kaizen technique is a continuous improvement lean method that guarantees better output and progressive change in an organization if every employee in the company puts more effort into their work.

As such, any organization can integrate both the Kaizen method and the PDSA method to achieve increased profits, reduced costs, less wastage, and better performance from its employees.

As the employees work on increasing their input into the progressive change, the managerial team can use the plan-do-check-act technique to ensure that teams in different departments are continuously working on achieving the mission of the organization.

However, we recommend carrying out smaller PDSA cycles as compared to using the scientific method in one major cycle to attain the company's targets.

Here are reasons why the PDSA technique works best in smaller cycles.

The cycle takes time

Since the PDSA cycle has four steps, it takes a longer period to implement all the steps in order to see the desired results. This is because the cycle requires commitment and enough time for planning and analyzing the results. As a result, it is better to break down the technique into smaller cycles to achieve faster results. It is imperative to note that a single cycle will not yield results instantly.

The cycle uses a fixed principle

The PDSA cycle uses a fixed principle, which refers to planning, doing, checking, and taking action. The cycle does not leave any room for changes or variables once it is implemented. Therefore, to make the technique more flexible to accommodate any new changes that may occur in the company once the improvement cycle is implemented, we recommend breaking down the technique into smaller cycles.

The Benefits of PDSA in Organizations

Here are some of the ways your organization will benefit from implementing the PDSA technique.

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Lean Managers, Production or Operations Directors

Six Sigma Black Belts, Green Belts, Continuous Improvement Coaches

- Training Managers, Management Consultants

- Operational Excellence.

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Continuous application

Once a PDSA cycle is implemented successfully within an organization and achieves its set goal, the company can start a new PDSA cycle after the final stage of the previous cycle. This works best if a company has new targets and objectives that it desires to achieve after becoming successful in the first round.

As a result, the organization will always enjoy a great performance while also making continuous improvements to its operations with each cycle.


One of the benefits of developing the Shrewhart approach for your company is that you can apply it in various ways and still obtain positive results. In addition to simplifying problem-solving processes, for instance, the Shrewhart method can also be used in manufacturing industries to improve quality control and production processes.

Promotes teamwork

In order to successfully implement the Deming technique in your organization, you need to involve all your employees in the project. When everyone feels included in the plan, it promotes team chemistry and motivates the employees to work together for the good of the company.

Significance of educating everyone about PDCA / PDSA in a company

If you want to use the Deming or Shrewhart cycle to get better results in your company, then include all your employees in the plans for the project to be successful. When each employee knows what is expected of them, they will execute their tasks more accurately and efficiently.

Moreover, educating everyone about the Shrewhart cycle promotes teamwork, which produces better follow-up. This is because everyone will know who to ask for help in case they encounter difficulties during the execution of the plan.

A Concrete Example of the Deming Cycle

Since the Deming cycle can sound a bit theoretical, here is a concrete example of how you can implement the model in your organization today. First, you need to announce the goals of the organization for the upcoming quarter so that your team can have a specific target to work towards. An example of a specific goal is boosting the company's sales by x% and getting more customers.

Then, use the following Deming strategies to work towards the goal.

Stage 1: Planning

Ensure that all the teams from each department outline their specific targets and explain how those goals will contribute towards getting more sales and customers.

Stage 2: Doing

After all the teams have made their presentations, each team should begin working on their specific tasks. Short regular meetings should also take place in order to track the progress of each team.

Stage 3: Checking and reviewing

About two weeks toward the end of the cycle, each team should document its progress and success for evaluation and submit its reports for review.

Stage 4: Action

The teams that manage to boost sales and attract new customers to the company should be recognized and applauded for their work. The procedures used by the successful teams should be adopted by every team and repeated in order to generate continuous improvements in the organization.

Get Started with Zensimu Today

Are you ready to introduce the Deming cycle into your organization today? At ZenSimu, we use lean game techniques that allow participants to apply the PDCA cycle on an actual production process, in a practical/risk-free environment.

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We host teaching games that allow employees to learn new techniques practically. Get in touch with us today and we will train your entire team on how to adapt the PDCA cycle technique to boost the performance of your company. If you want to get the results you are looking for, your team needs to fully understand what the Deming cycle is, its stages, processes, and the part each person has to play for the success of the project.

Our teaching games are simple and easy to learn. Moreover, they promote teamwork and healthy competition. Create an account or contact us to get started right away.

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