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Implementing and continuously repeating the PDCA cycle can be the engine by which organisations continuously improve. Methodically working with PDCA provides organisations with clear overview and better insight into developments around policies and regulations. Getting a policy cycle In Control can be difficult in practice, but with the right software and a few tips and tricks, it can become a lot more manageable and controllable.

Meaning of the PDCA model

The PDCA policy cycle, or Deming’s circle of quality, is a cycle that is common in the quality angle. It is a method of iterative design and management that allows processes and products to be continuously monitored and improved. The PDCA circle is also known as the Deming circle/cycle/wheel, the Shewhart cycle, the control circle/cycle, or plan-do-study-act (PDSA).

The PDCA abbreviation itself stands for: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Plan – In the Plan phase, you start by drawing up an annual plan. Together with management, you look at where the organisation is now and where it needs to grow. This involves looking at internal factors (what is possible) but also external factors (which laws and regulations must we comply with).

It also looks at the right use of financial resources. Ultimately, an annual plan is the common theme for the organisation to work on in the following year.

Do – Actions to be taken emerge from an annual plan. These are taken up in the Do phase.

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

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

PDCA cycle example

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 from the past cycle when entering a new cycle.

Voorbeeld PDCA cirkel - Kwaliteitscirkel van Deming - Zenya Software

PDCA in practice

When you start applying the PDCA circle to your operations, you start by formulating the mission and vision of the organisation. 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 objectives, to which you attach result agreements and actions. During the implementation of the actions, you keep checking in between to see whether the implementation is in line with the result agreements. At the end of the cycle, you evaluate how everything went and make a report on what you can take into account in the next cycle and in your annual plan.

Apply PDCA cycle with the A3 methodology

To implement the above structurally, we recommend that organisations use the A3 methodology. This methodology is easy to use and simple to understand, making it easier to create support in your organisation. It is a step-by-step plan that allows you to properly draw up the annual plan in a structural way.

Are you looking for a template for the A3 methodology? Use this visual:

Applying PDCA circle with the A3 methodology

PDCA software? Use a quality management system

If you are looking for software to support the implementation of PDCA, you can use a quality management system. Put all spearheads, goals and annual plans in this system so that 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 run your PDCA cycle with a quality management system, you assure yourself that you have the tools to work efficiently on goals – and achieve them.

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

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