What are the stages of the PDCA cycle?
To create a PDCA (Deming Cycle), you need to follow a step-by-step process that includes a sequence of steps. Ensuring that you do not omit any of these steps is crucial.
The first step when trying to optimize a process and improve a product or service is to plan. The company’s strategic goals, as well as the customer’s expectations, must be aligned in order to fulfill the next stages.
- First, you need to conduct a diagnosis to actively identify existing problems, define priorities regarding what needs improvement, and even detect new opportunities.
- After defining the goal, you must break it down into realistic and tangible objectives. At this point, it’s important to survey data and information to define the scope of work.
- Once the team gathers, it’s time to put pen to paper and actively create an action plan that outlines the tasks they must perform to achieve objectives. Define deadlines, a schedule, and the people responsible.
- You must also define key performance indicators (KPIs), which are metrics to be analyzed in the next stage.
Now it’s time to put your plan in action. It’s important for the team to receive particular training to execute what’s laid out in the plan.
During execution, you should also try to collect data so you can monitor processes and measure results. Record them whether they’re positive or negative.
In this stage, it is essential to have objective and quantitative parameters to properly assess process improvement and quality standards, enabling you to compare them to previous cycles.
In this stage, you can actively identify problems or failures in the process, which you can adjust later.
Additionally, the “A” in PDCA also represents “adjust,” indicating the actions you need to implement to correct the failures detected in the previous stage. At this point, you can point out solutions to problems and then amend planning according to the new results.
In this stage, there are two different outcomes:
- If you have achieved the expected result, it can serve as a reference for other processes, departments, or units within the company.
- If the result fell below expectations, you should actively analyze it in order to find new solutions.
The market’s dynamic nature constantly generates technological innovations, making it challenging to consider any working pattern as definitive. Even if a strategy has proven successful, it is highly likely that revisiting the PDCA cycle can lead to further improvements.
When should you use PDCA?
You can use this method in any process to keep your company in a cycle of continuous improvement, actively implementing standards and increasing efficiency.
The more you repeat the cycle, the more you increase gains in quality and improve customer service, increasing your advantage.
You can use PDCA for:
- Managing routines: standardize your company’s day-to-day processes and define a quality level for activities.
- Managing improvements: ensures a certain quality level, and always seeks to adapt to external instabilities and find ways to stand out in the market.
To better clarify the meaning of PDCA, we can show a simple example of a problem solved through PDCA. The development of a new shampoo bottle.
After discovering that customers are unsatisfied with the packaging due to product wastage, the cosmetic company could take the following actions:
- Bring together the product development team, R&D, and the information gathered by the customer service team. After that, plan a new package that meets customer expectations and reduces waste.
- With a defined action plan having deadlines, goals, and people in charge, you can start the actual production of the packaging.
- With data collected at the factory, such as raw material costs, production time, and more, the team oversees the process and assesses results. At this point, the new package is released and new customer feedback is collected.
- After gathering all the information, you analyze the performance and suggest new solutions for further improvements, thereby initiating the next cycle.
Technology and PDCA
Having been in use for many years, we can consider the PDCA cycle as a simplification of several other methodologies that actively aim for continuous improvement. This is the case of the BPM continuous improvement cycle.