Those of you who visit For-Managers on a regular basis must have realized that we have an uncompromising commitment to improving your management. We are continually introducing new tools, reflecting on aspects of skills management, showing the importance of enhancing IT management, and so on: for us, writing an article will only make sense if it can contribute to its operation on issues like these. With this thought, we will now talk about a management methodology that can be highly effective in improving your company’s processes. And this isn’t something we just came up with; it’s a tool that has been helping managers around the world for an impressive 70 years: the PDCA cycle.
Another corporate acronym?
The use of acronyms has a specific purpose: they are more practical and simpler to remember. In this case, the PDCA cycle means PLAN – DO – CHECK – ACT, or PLAN – DO – CHECK – ADJUST. Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to say, “let’s deploy the PDCA” than to say, “let’s implement the Plan Do Check Act plan,” right?
It is, as we have said, a methodology and an interactive management technique that consists of the following four steps, which aim to improve processes and products on an ongoing basis.
It all began in the 1950’s
The PDCA cycle became well-known in the mid-1950s thanks to the statistician and American professor William Edwards Deming (1900-1993), regarded by many as the father of quality control in production processes. Others also give credit to the engineer Walter Shewart (1891-1967), Deming’s countryman.
Regardless of its authorship, the fact is that both sought to accelerate and perfect a company’s processes by identifying problems, causes and solutions. And PDCA was the result of this search.
How do I apply the methodology to my company?
First, it is important to understand that this is a cycle. What we mean by that is that the process consists of activities that must be planned and practiced continuously so that results can improve over time.
The sequence of activities should also respect the order of the acronym. So, it all starts with P. The Planning phase is when you should be focusing on strategy, gathering and analyzing information.
Then, you start D. Doing is when you execute whatever it is that you have planned. And then whatever you have accomplished must then be Checked (C); in this step of the cycle you take stock and evaluate your actions. The results of your assessment will lead you to make Adjustments (A) to correct any problems and divergences that may have emerged.
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What exactly does each of the steps entail?
The firsts step in the implementation of the PDCA cycle involves, as we have already stated, drawing up a plan. The idea here is to develop a strategy that proposes solutions to the problems that you are confronting.
There are three fundamental phases that make up the planning step of the cycle. The first is the establishment of your objectives for the cycle as a whole; the second is deciding the manner in which the targets will be reached, and the third is the definition of the method that you will employ to achieve your goals. In this step, you should also consider training your team, and possibly recruiting the professionals who will lead the processes.
You can never be too detail-oriented in this step of the cycle. This stage should be carefully worked out to avoid failures and losses of time in the next parts of the PDCA cycle.
With your detailed planning ready to go, the next step is putting those plans into practice. This involves training your team to prepare them for the method’s implementation. This is the most crucial stage of the PDCA cycle. Therefore, it must be carefully and continuously monitored, so that there are no deviations from your initial plans.
The third step of the PDCA is the analysis or verification of the results you have achieved and the data you have collected. This review should occur after the execution of your plans, at which point statistical evaluations of the data are conducted, and all the information is checked. The primary objective of this phase is to detect any errors or faults in the execution of the planning phase.
4. ACT or ADJUST
We have reached the last stage of the PDCA cycle. In it, corrective actions are taken based on the analysis and verification. In other words, this step is used to correct any flaws found in the execution phase.
Then, after investigating the causes of the failures or deviations in the process and after acting to solve them, start all over again. Here is where the cycle comes into play: the PDCA is a cyclical process, that is continually renewed so that practices and processes improve on a constant basis.
Why is PDCA so important?
PDCA is vital because the methodology essentially takes the maxim, “practice makes perfect” and applies it directly to your business processes. The cyclical renewal of the four steps permits management to be able to regularly identify and correct failures, continually improving the company’s processes.
The PDCA cycle also makes a difference because through it careful measurement is prioritized – and you have probably realized by now that measuring is a critical activity for management. After all, how else will you know if your products and processes are improving on a regular basis? How else would you find out if your products or services are appealing to customers without having concrete data to back up your evaluations? Peter Drucker, the management guru, famously said that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
How to apply the PDCA cycle?
A practical example always helps. So, imagine that your company needs to conduct virtual threat training.
Take a blank sheet divided into four parts, each part relating to one cycle activity. Put activities corresponding to the project in each section. For example: “Prepare training schedule” in P; “Conduct activities to combat phishing, in D; “Verify that employees understood the procedures” and “Measure project progress” in C; and “Correct procedures” in A.
This is just an example, but the possible applications of the PDCA cycle are extensive. As you implement the methodology on a daily basis, you will perceive the extent to which it can contribute to significantly improving your management processes.
Use a software tool to track your PDCA cycle
Some tools and software can help you organize the individual steps that comprise your company’s projects. It’s essential to use a solution that will allow you to carefully monitor and measure the actions and results of each phase when implementing the PDCA cycle.
Runrun.it is a dedicated tool for company leaders who want to increase their teams’ engagement, as it records the gamut of information relating to your activities. Facilitate communication between employees, organize demands and understand when tasks and projects will be delivered and how much they will actually cost. Sign up for a free trial of this highly effective work management tool: https://runrun.it