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Deming's Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) Cycle Visual Animation

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Animation Courtesy ofJukka Huhtiniemi's The Red Road!

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W. Edwards Deming in the 1950's proposed that business processes should be analyzed and measured to identify sources of variations that cause products to deviate from customer requirements. He recommended that business processes be placed in a continuous feedback loop so that managers can identify and change the parts of the process that need improvements. As a teacher, Deming created a (rather oversimplified) diagram to illustrate this continuous process, commonly known as the PDCA cycle for Plan, Do, Check, Act*. (also known as PDSA Cycle - Plan Do Study Act)

* PLAN: Design or revise business process components to improve results
* DO: Implement the plan and measure its performance
* CHECK: Assess the measurements and report the results to decision makers [AKA (STUDY: Study the results]
* ACT: Decide on changes needed to improve the process

Deming's focus was on industrial production processes, and the level of improvements he sought were on the level of production. In the modern post-industrial company, these kinds of improvements are still needed but the real performance drivers often occur on the level of business strategy. Strategic deployment is another process, but it has relatively longer-term variations because large companies cannot change as rapidly as small business units. Still, strategic initiatives can and should be placed in a feedback loop, complete with measurements and planning linked in a PDCA cycle. To illustrate the relationship of business unit processes to strategic processes, two nested PDCA cycles are used.

This 'wheel within a wheel' describes the relationship between strategic management and business unit management in a large company. There are actually several separate business units, of course, each with its own set of metrics, goals, targets and initiatives. The business activities constitute the DO part of the overall strategic effort.

* Note: The PDCA cycle was in fact originally developed by Walter A, Shewhart, a Bell Laboratories scientist who was Deming's friend and mentor, and the developer of Statistical Process Control (SPC) in the late 1920s. So sometimes this is referred to as the "Shewhart Cycle". There are also several recent variations on this concept.

Benefits of the PDCA cycle:

- Daily routine management-for the individual and/or the team
- Problem-solving process
- Project management
- Continuous development
- Vendor development
- Human resources development
- New product development
- Process trials


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This page last reviewed or revised: Saturday, October 11, 2014 5:51 PM EST USA - GMT {Greenwich Mean Time} -5 hours