PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) is a commonly used technique in many organizations, and it provides many benefits, especially in situations where improvements are to be prioritized. There is a lot to gain from using PDSA correctly, but there are also some caveats to be aware of. If you go about applying PDSA in an uncontrolled, blind manner, you risk running into some problems that might be too hard to address at a later stage.
On the bright side, most challenges presented by PDSA are easy to work around, and can often be overcome with enough planning and preparation. All you need to do is familiarize yourself with the common principles around PDSA, and know what those challenges are so you can be ready for them before they’ve even presented themselves.
1. Overlapping changes can be hard to control
A commonly seen problem when using PDSA is that some of the changes resulting from its application can sometimes overlap, resulting in a somewhat messy environment that can be hard to navigate even for an experienced leader. What’s worse, sometimes that overlap between changes can lead to significant problems, especially when it comes to changes in critical components of the system.
It’s important to have some safeguards in place that can prevent you from making changes at the wrong time, but it’s just as important to ensure that those safeguards are actually observed, and that your employees have a good idea about their importance in the grand scheme of things. Otherwise, you risk running into problems caused by the simple fact that your workers underestimate a specific part of the changes being brought in, and this ends up dragging the whole operation down.
2. PDSA requires appropriate training across all levels
This naturally brings us to the next critical point to consider about PDSA, the importance of appropriate training and ensuring that all your employees are aware of proper PDSA practices and how to apply the system to their work.
This kind of training can take time, especially for a company of a larger scale, making it important to plan ahead and organize it correctly if you don’t want to see any downtime in the organization. Sometimes you can do everything right and still see problems caused by the fact that your employees have to spend a lot of time going through training materials, and the only way to prevent that is by making sure that the whole training is properly accounted for well in advance.
3. Poor data collection practices can affect the whole process
PDSA relies heavily on data collection and analysis, so it makes sense that making a mistake in this area can have severe consequences on the overall performance of your business. You have to make sure that you’re always paying attention to your data collection practices, especially if the systems involved keep changing over time.
You’ll find that there is always a need for new data collection systems to be put in place, and if your organization is currently going through a period of significant growth, that will be even more true. You can’t just keep tacking on more systems of this type forever, as at some point you’re going to run into the inevitable problem of having too much data at hand to work with.
If you’re constantly experiencing issues with this, it’s probably best to hire someone who specializes in this area, as otherwise you’re risking a great portion of your company’s future by betting it on something that can easily spin out of control if you’re not careful.