PDCA Process


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Plan–Do–Check–Act Process (PDCA)

Helps you avoid "Ready, Fire, Aim"
Ensures Improvement, even if it takes some time.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle

A circular process designed to be run again and again until the desired result is achieved.

The above graphic is Dr. Deming's "Plan-Do-Check-Act" (PDCA) cycle. (Deming called it the 'Shewhart Cycle')

bulletPlan what you are going to do. In this step you assess where you are, where you need to be, why this is important. You will plan how to close the gap and identify some potential solutions.

Do try out or test the solutions. This Do step is critical. You must Do something to realize improvement.


Check to see if the countermeasures you tried had the desired effect.  Make sure that there are no negative consequences and assess if you have accomplished your goal.


Act on what you have learned. If you have accomplished your goal, put controls in place to ensure the issue never comes back again. If you have not accomplished your objective, go through the cycle again, starting with the Plan step.

Frequently, a project will define sub-objectives. You run thorough the PDCA cycle one or more times to accomplish the sub-objective, then define the next objective and go through the cycle again. Thus, projects end up "turning the wheel" many times before completion.

  You can use this process approach for almost anything.


 It works just as well for Incremental Software Development as it does for reducing Customer Complaints.

Today, there are many process improvement and quality models available to an organization. Most are newer than the PDCA model and are often refinements from this older established standard. If your organization already embraces a different model, I will likely support it and help you foster that model.

I choose to use the PDCA model because it clearly conveys a circular process with easily understood steps. I use it to help convey a message.


My goal is to foster improvement, which model you use is less important than achieving the desired results.



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Last modified: 02/28/08.