PLAN, DO, CHECK, ACT: THE PDCA CYCLE
Problem-solving is an integral component of every workday. Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) is a four-step approach to problem-solving that entails testing various solutions to a problem to identify and execute the most effective one. It’s useful anytime TICF starts a new project or launches an improvement. Here’s how each step of PDCA helps promote better outcomes.
There is a time-honored adage: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s clear that spending more time beforehand thinking through various scenarios means there is usually less time afterward dealing with unintended consequences. Neglecting to devote adequate time and resources in this step results in inefficiency and waste.
Often people define planning as setting a schedule, but it’s far more than that. During the plan phase, a goal is set, and the current situation is compared to the ideal. Then the problem is broken down to define the root cause and a target set. Only then are effective countermeasures recommended.
Here is where the carefully identified countermeasures are executed according to the plan. The entire team is included and encouraged to participate with commitment, integrity, and flexibility.
Of course, even with the best planning, unforeseen circumstances can arise. In that event, the team works together to decide how to overcome challenges by promoting alternative methods to get the job done.
This where results and processes are evaluated and compared against the target to see what went well and what could benefit from improvement (Kaizen). This is also the time to consider how resources were used to identify possible efficiencies and inefficiencies. During this step, communication with all stakeholders ensures that feedback and insights are robust and thorough.
Was the countermeasure successful? If so, check off the achievement and move on. However, if it wasn’t—and often it may not be—analyze what might have gone awry and then return to a previous step to identify other potential countermeasures to try.
The act phase entails a final problem-solving step to standardize successful processes to define the optimal repeatable process for ongoing success. This ensures consistent results whenever others carry out the action; it also spreads best practices throughout the organization.
This final step is essential to continuous improvement and will help ingrain these successful processes into the workflow.