The Plan - Do - Check - Act (PDCA) methodology, also known as the Deming Cycle, is a 4-step model for continuous improvement that can be applied on business process management and software development projects. It can be used for improving the effectiveness of business processes within diverse domains and solving quality management problems.
The PDCA methodology is an iterative management methodology that is deceptively simple to implement yet frequently overlooked.
It was popularized by W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant who played an instrumental role in Japan’s recovery after the Second World War. The PDCA methodology revolves around a fundamental principle of the scientific method: it’s impossible to negate a confirmed hypothesis. Such hypothesis can only be used to further improve our knowledge and processes.
Core Benefits of PDCA
Software development and business process improvement are iterative processes that heavily depend on continuous quality improvement and the ability to produce solutions that deliver the same benefits every time. The PDCA methodology provides an effective means for managing change and ensuring that solutions are appropriately tested prior to full implementation.
When implemented correctly, the PDCA methodology prevents a pile-up of problems over time and ensures that each iteration takes us one step closer to the end goal or makes the software project/business process better. It makes sense to apply this principle whenever the consequences of getting things wrong are too high to take unnecessary risks.
The Four Phases of the PDCA Methodology
The beauty of the PDCA methodology lies in how easily it can be implemented. The methodology involves four actionable steps:
- Plan: The first step is to decide what goal we want to achieve or the problem we want to solve. At this point, we also identify the root causes of the problems and a strategy for achieving our goals.
- Do: The second step is to implement the plan/solution.
- Check: Did the implemented changes lead to the desired effect? With enough data collected, we can study the results of the implementation and compare them with our goals and objectives.
- Act: Depending on the results, we can either make the plan implemented in the second step the new baseline, make small adjustments to the plan and/or start the PDCA cycle from scratch.
PDCA: Software Projects & Business Process Improvement Projects
The PDCA methodology is a controlled problem-solving approach that can help software developers and business process analysts continually improve their solutions with each new iteration. It fully aligns with modern software development frameworks and its implementation is remarkably straightforward.
Here’s an analysis of how this methodology can be applied to both software projects and business process improvement projects:
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