PDCA cycle – plan, do, check, act

Strategy of operation according to PDCA


The PDCA cycle, or Deming’s circle, is more than just a method of continuous improvement. This is a kind of progressive way, or even a strategy of action, aimed at achieving the chosen goal.

The abbreviation PDCA means:


D – DO





The approach to this approach is very similar to the DMAIC method (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). That is why a lot of people dealing with, among others continuous improvement, or project management, applies both approaches interchangeably.

PDCA works well when analyzing and solving various types of problems, but it is also great for running projects or even building organizational strategies.


The procedure for using the PDCA method is very intuitive. It is not difficult to guess that you should base your actions on four successive stages, starting from planning, through action, checking and finally execution.

The last (as it seemed) stage, or Act, often provides surprising discoveries and conclusions that force further actions. In this way, it is our behavior that comes to the next circle, the cycle, and discovering newer issues to be solved, we improve our surroundings.


The diagram below perfectly illustrates the continuous improvement process using the PDCA approach:



Analysis of the problem in the PDCA cycle


Step # 1 – P – Plan


The first stage of the PDCA analysis, ie Plan, should be carried out with the greatest possible accuracy. The better we prepare for the topic at the beginning, the easier it will be to go through the remaining steps and get closer to the intended goal.

Let us assume that the analyzed problem is: Development of an organization strategy based on lean methodology.

So what to start with?


It’s best to describe / document the current situation. Answer the question:

– what strategy is in force at the moment?

Ready? So it’s time to define:

– why do we see the need for change? what influenced our decision?

– what do we want to achieve by basing the organization’s strategy on lean methodology?

– how are we going to do it?

– in what time perspective do we expect results? What effects?


Having answers to these questions, it is necessary to analyze and define the main reasons for the failure of the existing strategy or elements that influenced our decision to introduce a change.

To sum up the planning stage, it is necessary to set a specific goal to be achieved, and determine what effect we expect.

Only then can you go to the next stage of analysis, which is action.



Planning elements in the PDCA cycle (own study)


Step # 2 – D – Do


This is the moment in which the assumptions from the first stage must be implemented.

If we decide which of the PDCA elements is the most difficult – it certainly wins this step, namely the action / implementation. At this stage, our expectations and realities collide.

At the beginning it is necessary to set up a team or teams, thematically and task divided. Thanks to this, it will be possible to run sub-projects in different areas at the same time, thus optimizing the time of the entire task.

All works should be conducted according to a set schedule, which is supervised by “Leader (of this) change”. 



Elements of operation in the PDCA cycle (own study)

Step # 3 – C – Check


Treating the task, which is: “Introduction of lean organization strategies”, as a problem to be solved and following the PDCA cycle, we finally arrive at the third step, or check.

This stage forces us to reflect on the effectiveness of the actions taken.

1. Do we see a change for the better?

2. Were we able to improve certain indicators / effectiveness / transparency?

3. Do we communicate changes correctly?

4. Where have we encountered difficulties?


This is only part of the questions that arise at this stage, and all are aimed at comparison: How was it? What process did we find?

And … What did you do? How is it currently?



Elements of verification in the PDCA cycle (own study)


Step # 4 – A – Act


And that’s how we got to the last (as it might seem) stage, or performance.

It is a summary of achievements, transforming them into standards and stabilizing.

Any unresolved problems become the basis for starting a new cycle of PDCA, ie the next Plan, Action, Check and Execution.



Elements of the PDCA cycle (own work)




PDCA cycle, near Deming – in a very comprehensive way allows you to bite into the analyzed problem, the issue.

This method perfectly illustrates the process of continuous improvement. Each element of the analysis can take place in a cycle, subsequent stages overlap. We systematically enter new issues in small steps, and by solving the problems we encounter, we improve the process.



PDCA cycle – a comprehensive and design approach to problem analysis






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