The PDCA cycle ( Deming cycle ) is one of the basic concepts in modern management theory. It also underlies the standards of the ISO 9000 series, which are used worldwide for quality management in enterprises of all sizes and types.
Deming's PDCA cycle is a technology for continuous improvement of processes both in business and in any other field of activity. The name of this method is an abbreviation of 4 English words, meaning a logical sequence of stages of improvement:
- P - Plan (plan);
- D - Do (do);
- C - Check (check, analyze);
- A - Act (act).
Everything is logical and simple: first you need to think through actions. Then they are carried out in accordance with the plan. The third step is the analysis of the results. And finally, the last stage - Act - involves the introduction of specific changes to improve the process and / or setting new goals. After this, the planning stage begins again, at which everything that has been done before should be taken into account.
Schematically , the PDCA control cycle is depicted in the form of a wheel, which demonstrates the continuity of this process.
Now consider each step in detail.
The first stage is planning. It is necessary to clearly formulate the problem, then determine the main directions for work and come up with the optimal solution.
A typical mistake is to develop a plan based on subjective guesses and management assumptions. Without knowing the root causes of the problem, you can at best neutralize its consequences, and then temporarily. What tools can be used for this?
The 5 Why Method
It was developed back in the 40s, but gained popularity after 30 years, when Toyota began to actively use it. How is such an analysis carried out?
First you need to formulate and write down the problem. Then ask, “Why is this happening?” and write down all the reasons. After that, you need to do the same for each answer. Next, we go the same way, until the question "Why?" will not be set 5 times. As a rule, the fifth answer is the real reason.
This method allows you to graphically present the cause-effect relationships of any phenomena in business. Named for its creator, chemist Kaora Ishikawa, and is widely used in management.
When constructing the diagram, 5 probable sources of problems are distinguished: a person, materials, environment (environment), equipment and methods. Each of them, in turn, may contain more detailed reasons. For example, the work of employees depends on the level of qualification, health, personal problems, etc.
Ishikawa diagram construction sequence:
- Draw a horizontal arrow to the right, and write a clearly worded problem near its tip.
- At an angle to the main arrow, depict the 5 main factors of influence that we talked about above.
- Use the small arrows to show the detailed reasons. If necessary, you can add smaller branches. This is done until all probable reasons are written out.
After that, all the obtained options are written out in a column, from the most realistic to insignificant.
A collective discussion with experts and key employees, in which the task of each participant is to identify as many potential causes and solutions as possible, including the most fantastic ones.
After a theoretical analysis, it is necessary to find real evidence confirming that the causes of the problem are identified correctly. It is impossible to act on the basis of guesses ("most likely ...").
As for the planning itself, specificity is also important here. It is important to set deadlines, draw up a clear sequence of actions and measurable results (including intermediate ones) that they should lead to.
The second stage of the PDCA cycle is the implementation of the plan, the introduction of changes. Most often it is more expedient to first implement the decisions made on a small scale, conduct a “field test” and check how it works in a small area or facility. If there are breakdowns, delays, it is important to understand what the reason is (unrealistic planning or lack of discipline on the part of employees). Additionally, an intermediate control system is being introduced, which allows not only to wait for results, but to constantly monitor what has already been done.
In simple words, now it is necessary to give an answer to a single question: "What have we learned?" The PDCA cycle involves a continuous assessment of the results achieved. It is necessary to evaluate the progress regarding the goals set, to determine what works well and what needs to be improved. It is mainly carried out by checking reports and other documentation of the enterprise.
For the successful implementation of the Shekhart-Deming cycle (PDCA) in business, it is necessary to establish regular reports on the work done and discuss the results with employees. The ideal tool for this is the introduction of key performance indicators KPI, on the basis of which a system of motivation and encouragement of the most productive employees is built.
The last step is, in fact, the action. There may be several options:
- implement change;
- refuse a decision if it has been ineffective;
- repeat all the steps of the PDCA cycle again, but make certain adjustments to the process.
If something works well and can be repeated, this solution needs to be standardized. For this, appropriate changes are made to the enterprise’s documentation: work schedules, instructions, checklists for checking the progress of work, employee training programs, etc. At the same time, the possibility of introducing improvements to other business processes where similar problems may arise should be assessed.
If the developed action plan did not bring the expected results, you need to analyze the reasons for the failure, and then return to the first stage (Plan) and try another strategy.