Continuous Work Product Improvement with the Deming Cycle (Part 1)
Focusing on continuously trying to improve your company’s work product is not only beneficial to your clients and customers, who can directly benefit from an improved product or service, but it can also be critical to growing your firm’s practice, business and overall profits. A popular tool that can be used to this end is the Deming Cycle, which breaks down the improvement process into four basic steps: Planning, Doing, Checking and Action.
Also referred to as the PDCA cycle (as an acronym for the previously mentioned four steps), the Deming Cycle is a practical workplace tool that can be effective in helping a company’s staff develop their creative faculties, hone their problem-solving skills and ultimately become better critical thinkers.
An Overview of the Four Steps of the Deming Cycle
The following details the four steps of the Deming/PDCA cycle:
- Step 1: Planning – This initial step specifically involves taking a critical look at a situation, analyzing it, compiling data and information regarding the situation and outlining steps that can be taken to improve the situation. During this phase of the Deming Cycle, employees can devise effective plans of action by asking themselves questions like:
- What is the specific problem or issue at hand? (i.e., defining the issue)
- What are the goals we are trying to achieve? (i.e., defining the end point)
- What are the tools or metrics we will use to evaluate whether an improvement has been made? (i.e., defining how to assess the effects of the plan)
- Step 2: Doing – In this next phase, employees are called to test out various alternative courses of action (in, for example, beta testing, lab settings, etc.) to pinpoint which courses of action are best suited to tackle the issue, problem or situation. During this “Doing” phase, pilot programs can be tested on small groups of clients (or other employees). Important questions to ask during this stage can include:
- What are the specific steps of the proposed plan?
- Who will be putting this plan into action?
- How easy or difficult will it be for the target subjects to enact the proposed plan?
- What tools or aids to the subjects need to put the plan into action?
- What are the potential barriers to enacting the plan?
Look for the upcoming second part of this blog for an in-depth discussion regarding the Checking and Action phases of the Deming Cycle.
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