The Plan-Do-Check-Act circle, or PDCA cycle, is a method for steering continuous improvement in an organisation. Therefore it is not surprising that this PDCA cycle is used in many ISO standards. The cyclical nature of the model ensures quality improvement is constantly brought to attention. This ensures that the products and services you offer are of a higher quality.
The PDCA cycle: history
The PDCA cycle is also known as the Deming Circle. It was developed by the American statistician William Deming (1900-1993) and is the go-to model for continuous improvement. While we say 'developed', the Deming Circle was in fact an improved version of the Shewart Cycle, published in 1939 by Dr Walter A. Shewart. This cycle consisted of 3 steps:
Shewart scientifically linked these steps together: specification, production and inspection, in this perspective, coincide with the formulation of a hypothesis, the conduct of an experiment and the testing of the hypothesis. Deming converted the Shewart cycle to a more practical approach and added a step:
- Redesign driven by market research.
His methodology contributed enormously to the reconstruction of Japan's economy after World War II. At a seminar in Japan, he specifically addressed chief executives with the message: improving quality leads to a reduction in expenditure and an increase in productivity and market share. Japanese manufacturers started to apply his techniques, which led to a new and international demand for Japanese products. And isn't the Japanese economy now one of the most efficient economies we know? Deming knew what he was talking about! With his PDCA cycle, he laid the foundation for Lean working.
The 4 steps today
The PDCA cycle as we know it today still consists of 4 steps:
1. Plan: in this step, you determine the policy based on opportunities and risks and set objectives. Formulate your objectives SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound) and take into account the interests of various stakeholders;
2. Do: this step revolves around taking organisational and technical measures to achieve the objectives;
3. Check: in this step you check your actions. You monitor the progress made towards achieving the objectives. You evaluate the differences between the actual results and the results the organisation had in mind, and you find out what the causes of the differences are;
4. Act: in this step, you adjust the results on the basis of data obtained from monitoring. Where necessary, you adjust the policy and you set new objectives.
This cycle is continuously repeated in order to ensure assurance.
PDCA and ISO 9001
The PDCA cycle can be found very distinctly in the ISO 9001 standard requirements. The cycle is woven into the structure of the standard. The advantage of following the PDCA Cycle is that it automatically brings about continuous improvement. You improve your work, performance and the organisation itself step by step. The ultimate goal of the PDCA cycle is to ensure that everyone in an organisation is continuously improving. By improving quality, you reduce expenses while increasing productivity, exactly as Deming said in 1950 in Japan. Doesn’t that sound good?
A common mistake when applying a PDCA cycle is, for example, that the plan and do step are executed properly. Plans are made full of enthusiasm and the corresponding action points are carried out with great dedication. And then... It remains silent. Results are not evaluated so that there is nothing to adjust. The steps check and act are skipped, while it is of the utmost importance to evaluate the results, make adjustments and then start again with the first step.
So keep paying attention and make sure all the steps of the PDCA cycle are followed and completed before you start again with step 1. This is the only way to achieve continuous improvement! Are you afraid of forgetting a step? With the easy-to-use software tool of My ISO Genius, you can be sure that you won't miss a step of the PDCA cycle and therefore comply with the ISO 9001 standard. Thanks to the automated task system you can be sure that you will go through each step of the cycle every year.
PDCA cycle in your company
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