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Getting a grip on quality with the PDCA method and Zenya

Continuous improvement and problem solving based on a clear, fixed structure: what organisation doesn’t want that? The PDCA cycle makes this possible. The cycle consists of four steps that help your organisation improve. As these steps are repeated each time, you continuously improve the processes within your organisation.

Getting a grip on improvement and quality management can be a big job. The PDCA method helps enormously with this, and in addition, we make it a little easier for you with Zenya, our quality management software. What is the PDCA cycle? And how does it work? In this article, we explain how the cycle works and give you some tips & tricks to be in control when it comes to quality management.

What is the PDCA model and where does the cycle come from?

The PDCA policy cycle was developed by William Edwards Deming and is also known as Deming’s quality cycle. Deming took inspiration from Walter Shewhart when developing the cycle, which is why the cycle is also known as the Shewhart cycle. In addition, the cycle is known as the Deming circle/cycle, the control circle/cycle and plan-do-study-act (PDSA).

The cycle is common in the quality corner and is an important tool in policy and regulatory drafting. The cycle is also often used in ISO certifications.

PDCA-cycle: 4 steps to better quality management

PDCA stands for: Plan, Do, Check, Act. With these four steps, you go through a phase each time that ensures improvement within your organisation.



In this phase, you start by drawing up an annual plan. Management looks at where the organisation is now and where they want to grow. In doing so, they look at internal factors (what is possible?), but also external factors (which laws and regulations do we have to comply with?). They also look at the right application of financial resources. Ultimately, an annual plan is the thread for this.


From an annual plan, the actions to be taken emerge. These are taken up in the Do phase.


Once the Do phase is complete, it is time for the Check phase. Have all actions been implemented or are there items still outstanding? Are the goals going to be achieved? Analyse how things are going and collect enough data.


With the analysis and data from the Check phase, you draw conclusions and set up final actions. At the end of the Act phase, everything should be finalised – and therefore the objectives from the Plan phase should also be achieved.

What does a PDCA cycle look like in practice?

When you start applying the PDCA cycle to your operations, you start by formulating the organisation’s mission and vision. Then you put down on paper some success determining factors that stem from this mission and vision. These focal points form the DNA of your business operations. From this DNA, you look for annual goals, to which you attach result agreements and actions. This is the Plan phase.

Then we enter the Do and Check phase. During the implementation of the actions, you keep checking in between to see if the implementation is in line with the result agreements.

Are there still results to be achieved? This is what the Act phase is for. In this phase, you make adjustments where necessary, based on the findings from the Check phase.

With the right software, you can perform the phases from a PDCA cycle even more efficiently.

We have been using the PDCA cycle to improve and secure quality for some time. Thanks to the transition to Zenya, we can increasingly demonstrate and support this. We can now extract and secure much more information from one system. This allows us to better implement and account for the cycle.”

Mieke Joosten and Silvia van Gils
Advisors at 'Adviesgroep Procesverbetering & Implementatie'

The image below shows how the PDCA cycle is repeated over and over again for continuous improvement. The grey triangles function as a wedge, securing the improvements of the past cycle when entering a new cycle.

Voorbeeld PDCA cirkel - Kwaliteitscirkel van Deming - Zenya Software

Applying the PDCA cycle with the A3 methodology

Getting direction, results and actions together in one plan is not so easy. Do you find this difficult? Then we recommend applying the cycle using the A3 methodology. This methodology aims to display annual plans on one paper. This provides overview and ensures that you can better steer towards your goals.

The A3 methodology is easy to use and simple to understand, creating more support in your organisation.

So with this methodology, you bring together your goals, results and associated actions. So how do you draw up such an annual plan? You can use the handy template below:

Applying PDCA circle with the A3 methodology

This template can be divided into three parts that you can fill in as follows:

The top part with the direction for your organisation

  • Mission: what your organisation stands for;
  • Vision: the purpose of your organisation;
  • Success determinants: the factors that are important for your organisation to achieve goals.

The right part with the success indicators

  • Employees: the results you want to achieve for employees;
  • Customers and partners: the results you want to achieve for customers and partners;
  • Society: the results you want to achieve in the social sphere;
  • Board and funders: the financial results you want to achieve.

The left part with the actions

  • Leadership: how board and management motivate employees to improve;
  • Strategy and policy: how to implement your mission, vision and success drivers;
  • Management of employees: how to best apply employee knowledge;
  • Management of resources: how to use available resources for your goals and how to deal with partners;
  • Management of processes: how to apply processes to achieve goals.

By applying the A3 methodology, you immediately know what you want to achieve and which changes need to take place in which part of the organisation.

Boost the PDCA cycle within your organisation with our software

Do you want to apply the PDCA cycle in the most efficient way? Then our quality management software is ideal for you. With Zenya, you get all information on, for example, complaints and incidents from one system. This makes it easy to identify weak points within your organisation and link improvement measures.

You can apply Zenya to any step within the PDCA cycle:

  • Put all focus points, goals and annual plans in Zenya so the whole organisation knows where to find the information;
  • When you link the goals to actions and assign them to employees, you can quite easily keep a finger on the pulse regarding progress;
  • Analyse how things are going and report to stakeholders so that timely action can be taken when you are dealing with scope creeps;
  • Plan future actions and be in control.

When you execute your PDCA cycle with a quality management system, you assure yourself that you have the tools to work efficiently on goals – and achieve them.

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