The PDCA concept usually refers to the famous administrator who popularized it: William E. Deming. But in fact, the PDCA concept (or cycle) emerged in the 1930s, designed by American Walter Andrew Shewhart. Deming was responsible for its widespread circulation which eventually got the concept to Japan where it was applied in businesses there.
The Definition of PDCA
It is often referred to as a cycle. It means that continuous improvement is at work each time the cycle is activated and returns to its beginning.
View more: Understand what the Kaizen Continuous Improvement Process is and how to apply it to the improvement and quality management of your company
The PDCA Concept
The basis of this tool is the repetition. It is applied successively to the processes that seek to improve continuously. In this context, planning, standardization, and documentation are essential practices and accurate measurements. Other factors addressed by the PDCA concept are the talents and skills of the professionals involved.
The 4 stages of the PDCA Concept Cycle
It is the stage where we analyze the problems that we want to be solved, according to the following order:
- Definition of problems
- Setting goals
- Choice of methods
- Ask the question five times: why did the problem occur? Always making a complete answer.
Here, the PDCA concept is beginning to show: a structured and organized repetition to find solutions.
It’s time to get hands-on, executing what was determined in the previous step:
- Practice the method
- Make changes
- Don’t need to strive for perfection, just look for what can be done in a practical way
- Measure and record the results
It is one of the most important steps that define the PDCA concept cycle. After checking, we will see if the action has improved:
- Check whether the standard is being obeyed
- Check what’s working and what’s going wrong
- At every step, ask why?
- With the answers, improve and practice the defined method
Time to act more assertively.
- Things going as planned? Then continue!
- Well actually, there are some problems? Then act to correct and prevent the errors!
- Improve the work system
- Repeat the solutions that worked
At the end of the fourth phase, the PDCA concept suggests that the cycle restarts again, to seek a continuous and uninterrupted improvement.
Care when applying the PDCA concept
- Only proceed to the DO phase after having considered the PLAN phase
- If you find that during the ACT stage there is an excess of repetitions and attempts, return to the PLAN phase
- Avoid a short circuit in the cycle, by not skipping stages or not devoting enough time for questions and searching for the “whys”.
The PDCA concept in conjunction with BPM systems is a powerful combination for the analysis and management of processes.
The PDCA concept is simple but laborious
Many delude themselves when using the PDCA concept believing it to be a tool that doesn’t require dedicated and meticulous work. Within the most common mistakes we can highlight:
- Lack of reasoning when responding to the “whys”
- Analysis of incomplete scenarios
- Inefficient training
- Incomplete records
- Inaccurate measurements
- Insufficiently detailed standardization