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What is the PDCA Cycle?

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The PDCA cycle or Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is a four step model for carrying out change. It helps us roll out an incremental solution, so you don’t jump into full scale implementation without doing the due diligence first.

When to use PDCA

The PDCA can be effective in various scenarios:

  • When implementing a six sigma initiative or any sort process improvement project
  • Exploring solutions to a problem and then piloting them in a controlled way before selecting the final solution
  • To avoid wasting resources by rolling out an ineffective solution on a large scale
  • New product development
  • Project and Change Management
  • Product lifecycle
  • Supply chain management

Plan

During the plan stage you are recognizing an opportunity to take advantage and understanding the problem at hand. By exploring information, defining the problem, generating ideas, and developing an implementation plan. It’s important to create goals and expectations to identify if the idea is successful and resolved.

Do

For do, you actually test the change and carry out a small-scale study. This can be a pilot plan or modeling simulation. This will you allow you to assess the effectiveness of the plan with minimal disruption to the rest of your operation. Especially if the plan doesn’t work at first, it’s important to start on a small scale because you’ll likely have to run the PDCA cycle multiple times before the perfect plan is in place.

Check

During the check stage you review the test, analyze the results, and identify what you learned. Compare your results to the expectations you defined in the planned stage and asses if the idea worked or not. If it didn’t work, go back to step one and start again with a different plan but if it was successful move on to the final step.

Act

Lastly, in the act stage you take action based on what you learned and implement your solution. Remember to still launch it on small scale with one branch for example before doing it in a full scale. Keep cycling it through and work out any conflicts before launching it company-wide.


The PDCA cycle is a continuous loop of planning, doing, checking, and acting. It’s a simple yet effective approach for solving problems one small step at a time. Want to learn more about the continuous improvement process? Download our Beginner's Guide to Continuous Improvement.

Written by Sarah Chesla

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