The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) method is a very useful technique for improving the state of operations within an organization, both on a large scale as well as in a targeted manner aimed at specific components or processes. There are various ways to apply PDCA, and it’s quite flexible in its use as well, making it the ideal candidate for those who want to see good results in their operations over a relatively short time span.
1. Improving processes
The main purpose of PDCA is, after all, to give you a platform for improving the internal processes within your organization. By correctly applying the methodology and using it to evaluate the performance of your organization, you can ensure that every process used in the company from top to bottom can be pushed forward in a controlled, systematic manner.
This is important, because many companies fail to realize the importance of controlled improvement, and end up investing far too many resources in areas of their operation that end up being largely irrelevant in the long run. PDCA allows you to gain control of the situation and ensure that every change you’re making moves things towards a proper goal.
Sometimes you may need to go back and revise certain improvements after the data around them changes later on. That’s fine, as long as you have a good system in place to minimize the impact on other areas of your organization.
2. Adapting to a changing environment
It’s not rare for modern companies to have to work in markets that are very dynamic and evolve in great leaps. Making sure that your operations are always relevant in these circumstances can be tricky, and leaders occasionally realize that the changes they’ve been making to their processes end up pushing them backwards, not forward.
Avoiding this is as simple as knowing what to expect from each of those changes, and that boils down to applying the PDCA method correctly. When you’re working according to a properly defined plan, and you also verify the results of each change, it becomes much easier to know that you’re pushing the business as a whole in the right direction.
Understanding what your customers want is often a huge issue for many organizations, and it can take a long time to adapt your processes towards this goal appropriately. Once you’ve done that though, you’ll find it much easier to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction.
3. Staying ahead of the market
Last but definitely not least, PDCA can allow you to stay ahead of your competition in the circumstances we described above. It’s not just about adapting to the market and customer demands – you have to ensure that you’re also relevant with regards to your direct competitors. PDCA can allow you to implement changes in your operations that specifically target your competitiveness potential, and attack the market from directions that allow you to establish a more solid presence on it.
To this end, PDCA relies heavily on collecting a lot of information about the current state of the market. There are many ways to go about this, and data collection is a whole separate area of its own that deserves a more dedicated look, but as long as you take care to plan ahead and know what kinds of data points you need to target, you should find yourself with a lot of relevant information that can prove useful in the long run.
Analyzing that information properly is just as important of course, but correct data collection practices tend to go hand in hand with the appropriate analysis methods. As long as you’ve picked the right system to gather the information in the first place, you should also be able to process it accordingly and do something useful with it.