PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act. It is a strategy used for continuous improvement in the workplace (or any other environment). It was popularized by W. Edwards Deming who helped to push forward modern quality improvement and quality control strategies. In many ways, PDCA emulates the well-known scientific method, and has been proven to be effective for the same reasons. The following is a simple outline of what each step in PDCA is.
This is the first step in the PDCA process and it involves planning out the objectives and processes that will be required to provide the necessary results. When engaging in the planning step it is important to look specifically at the final outcomes that are desired. Even if it seems like it will be difficult to accomplish. Coming up with ideas to generate the necessary improvements can take a lot of work but will pay off when implemented.
This is where the plans established in the previous step are put into practice. To the extent possible it is best to implement small changes, or do them in an isolated environment, in order so that the results can be analyzed.
In the check phase of this process teams will gather as much data as possible about the changes that were made. This data will be used to determine if the desired results were achieved or not. In addition, it will help to look at what other impacts the changes had, especially unintended consequences, which can cause trouble.
In the act phase a process will be adjusted based on the information gathered in the check phase. These adjustments will help to perfect a plan of action so that it can be rolled out to the entire facility. When everything goes smoothly the results will be a process improvement that accomplishes the goals from the plan stage.
Since PDCA is a continuous improvement strategy the next step after act will be to repeat the entire process. This can be done with the goal of making further improvements in the same area, or moving on to another process that needs to be changed. Companies that properly use PDCA should always be working on improving their processes with the goal of perfection.