Plan-Do-Check-Action (PDCA) - A Method for Controlling and Improving Processes and Products Continuously

PDCA is the core activity of management. This was introduced to the Japanese in 1954 by Deming. Grasping the situation to develop problem consciousness is required at each step of the PDCA cycle.

PDCA is an acronym for PLAN, DO, CHECK, ACT.

PDCA acts as a strong foundation for effective industrial functioning as it is simple and powerful.

  • Simple - in terms of straightforward and flexible approach
  • Powerful - in terms of its scientific approach (it involves procedures like – developing, testing, and analysis of the results obtained)

PDCA ensures continuous improvement & results in the achievement of a higher degree of success.

It begins with mainly 2 steps –

Step 1: Formation of the team- Designate a team leader and team members who will help out in carrying out task/process

Step 2: Formulation of Communication plan- Since the process involves continuous improvements, communication becomes vital. Communication is required to update every team member and also those that are impacted by the results. Every person involved needs to know the status of the project undertaken. Hence a storyboard or a project report or a KPI needs to be placed in an easily visible prime location facilitating effective communication.

During the PDCA process, the team may address more than one root cause and may also test more than one way to deal with the root cause.

PDCA has four phases-Plan, Do, Check, Act

These phases are detailed below (See Figure 1)

Figure-1: PDCA Cycle


A good plan includes,

  • 5 Ws and 1 H:-who, what, when, where, why and how
  • Proper measurement systems

This phase involves understanding and analyzing the present situation. It also investigates the nature of problems and works on seeking solutions to the same. During the course of investigation a team can find many problems and quality improvement opportunities. Grabbing these opportunities and reviewing the process yields solutions in the further processes.

It can be formulated as below -

  1. Set an aim/goal/target  
  2. Describe the current process 
  3. Collect all the data related to the present process (in the form of Pareto charts, histograms, flowcharts, scatter diagrams etc.) 
  4. Interpret and align the data in accordance to the goal
  5. Identify bottlenecks and problems
  6. Identify potential process/quality improvements. 
  7. Develop an improvement theory
  8. Develop an implementation plan for the theory thus developed

2. DO

DO contains its own PDCA cycle. This reflects its importance. The purpose of this phase is to implement the action plan developed in the Plan Phase. This allows us to strengthen and confirm our plan before full implementation.
  1. DO is Implement action plan
  2. Collect data
  3. Document all the results and observations
  4. Detail the problems faced during the implementation
Figure-2: The 'Do' PDCA Cycle 


It means to confirm. Hence we must decide on

  1. Who to check with?
  2. When to check?
  3. How frequently to check?
  4. In what manner to check?

This phase involves analyses of the effects of Plan and Do. Compare new data to the previous data to check improvement & its accordance with the goal/target set.
Check is a phase to analyze and compare and document basic method improvements implemented.

Go-see is also important in checking rather than hear-say or paper reports.

4. ACT

This is a summation of the previous three phases & aims to act upon what has been learned in these phases.

Act means reflecting on our condition after checking and taking appropriate action, including:-

  • Standardize outcome and process
  • Make counter measures if outcome results are substandard.
  • Counter measures can be –temporary action to “stop the bleeding”
  • permanent counter measures, which address the root cause.

This can be implemented with the three ‘A’s - Adopt, Adapt, Abandon

(a) Adopt - Establish mechanisms to perform new processes to measure and monitor on regular basis using run charts or control charts

(b) Adapt - Here the whole Do phase can either be repeated to gather sufficient data or adjust to the new methodology, whichever yields the results to reach the goal

(c) Abandon - If the changes made do not result in improvement as per the set goal, then team engages in the planning cycle, to develop new action plan & proceed through the next phases likewise

PDCA is a data-based powerful format to achieve improvements in efficiency .performance, accountability, outcomes that are indicative of the quality which the customer demands.

Read previous parts of BIG FAT LEAN series

About Vijayalaxmi Meharwade: Vijayalaxmi is a graduate (B.E.) in Textile and a Master in Textile Technology (Garment Technology). She has 14 years of experience in research and working in the industry concerning textile and garment manufacturing. She has also worked as a teaching faculty. 

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