PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It is also known as the Shewhart Cycle or the Deming Wheel.
PDCA was popularized by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, statistician and management consultant. Deming is often considered as the father of modern quality control.
PDCA – The Four Steps
The Four Steps in PDCA involves the following:
- Plan what you are doing
- Do what you said you would do
- Check that you did it right
- Act on anything that went wrong to avoid errors of the same nature in future
In the Plan Stage you determine where you want to be vis-a-vis where you are currently. Use your customer’s requirements to help you decide on your objectives.
The plan that was put in the previous stage is put into action in this stage. Make sure that your team has the correct training and equipment to perform their tasks.
Performance measurement is key. In the Check stage we measure performance and check that the plans have been implemented as written and will achieve the required goals. Document everything so that you have evidence for the next stage.
The Act stage is where you review your performance and learn from it. Data collected from the Check stage is used for decision making to determine if the project was successful. The lessons learnt from this iteration of PDCA can be incorporated into the next PDCA cycle iteration for continuous improvements.
The PDCA framework can improve any process or product by breaking it into smaller steps. It is particularly effective for:
- Implementation of Total Quality Management or Six Sigma initiatives which focus on process improvements.
- Rolling out effective solutions by avoiding wastage of resources due to its iterative nature.
- Exploring a range of solutions to problems, and piloting them in a controlled way before selecting one for implementation.
PDCA implementations can be in multiple iterations to ensure continuous improvements of the process. Visually, this can be represented as shown below.
Each PDCA cycle in itself is complete and feeds the results of its cycle into the next cycle to act upon.
There are plenty of freely available PDCA checklists that can get you started in your journey. Here are a few example:
PDCA In Software Development
Even though PDCA focuses at the process level, it can be adapted for software development. Here is an example of how it can be done.
Similarly, the framework can be extended to cover feature level development, software testing, etc.