Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Lean Features
Del Williams
8-in. cable and disc systems are comparable to belt or bucket systems
Jeremy L. Boerger
To keep your business running, you need visibility into your IT assets
Kevin Ketels
The baby formula industry was primed for disaster long before a key factory closed down
Joe Vernon
The greatest advantage of CV is its ability to count and categorize inventory
James J. Kline
Quality professional organizations need to adjust their body of knowledge to include an understanding of big data

More Features

Lean News
Sept. 28–29, 2022, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA
Enables system-level modeling with 2D and 3D visualization, reducing engineering effort, risk, and cost
It is a smart way to eliminate waste and maximize value
Simplified process focuses on the fundamentals every new ERP user needs
DigiLEAN software helps companies digitize their lean journey
Partnership embeds quality assurance at every stage of the product life cycle, enables agile product introduction
First trial module of learning tool focuses on ISO 9001 and is available now
Offset-aware programming of spindle transfers and bar pulls helps manufacturers drive multichannel CNC machinery
Freedom platform connects to any industrial asset to provide automated intelligence related to asset availability, utilization, and continuous improvement

More News

Greg Cresswell

Lean

Which Is the Most Important Step in PDCA?

A water-cooler debate

Published: Monday, April 17, 2017 - 12:01

Occasionally, my colleagues and I will take a step back from the day-to-day and have a more philosophical discussion about the field of ergonomics. Recently, the question was raised, “In the plan-do-check-act continuous improvement cycle, which step is the most important?” This sparked some interesting debate. Here are the arguments we came up with for each step:

Plan. This is the foundation for the entire process. If you don’t have a strategic plan with goals and steps in place, how will you know what you’re working toward? This step ensures that everyone involved is aligned, knows their responsibilities, and is headed in the right direction at the start. This is probably the most commonly skipped step and, unfortunately, if it is ignored, your process may fail.

Do. This is the part of the process in which things get done, and it’s certainly the most visible step. One of the hurdles organizations often face is getting started. This is especially true in larger, very bureaucratic organizations. The argument for “do” being the most important step is that if it is skipped, nothing happens, and there is no process to begin with.

Check. Checking confirms that you’re on target to do what you said you would do. Regular check-ins confirm that everyone is in sync and progressing toward the end goal. When things aren’t on track, it’s a good time to readjust resources and timelines as needed. Without this step, there is no way to know if you’re on track. The process can still function, but at the end of the year, you may find that you haven’t achieved your goal, and omitting the check step may be the reason.

Act. During this part of the process, you reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. It triggers the continuous improvement. This step is critical for standardizing the parts of the process that are working, and tweaking the parts of the process that need more attention. If this isn’t done, you’re not running a “process,” just a “program”—something with a start and, likely soon, a finish.

In the end, all of the steps are important, but some people may gravitate to one step more than another because it aligns better with their strengths and interests.

For more information about the PDCA continuous improvement process, check out Humantech’s position statement, “Managing Ergonomics as a Continuous Improvement Process.”

Discuss

About The Author

Greg Cresswell’s picture

Greg Cresswell

Gregory Cresswell, Managing Consultant and Ergonomics Engineer for Humantech, leads large-scale ergonomics project deployments and helps organizations build internal expertise by delivering training sessions to engineering and safety personnel. Greg works closely with companies to understand their needs and develop a process that will allow them to integrate human factors into production operations.

Comments

Great question

I often ask this question when interviewing job candidates.  As you've noted, it gives great insight to the person's perspectives and interests.