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Plan-Do-Check-Act in the Real World

For 19 years, I worked in an office for a church denomination putting together a large annual conference – 15 to 24 sites per year, all over the US, all on the same dates, with no allowance for a miss. I worked with a staff of two to four fabulous people, and the rest of the work was done by volunteers at each site. We planned it, wrote a manual covering all the needed functions, trained the local overseers, ran the conference, and got detailed reports from each site about what worked and what didn’t. Every year we made changes to the plan based on what hadn’t worked, and ran it again the next year.

After about eight years, that massive, complex conference project got almost boring, if you can believe it, because we’d solved the problems and knew our plan would work. We began to have time for innovation, doing more cool stuff during the conferences, because we knew what we were doing. We stayed out of ‘panic mode’ and most of our work days during the year were calm, just doing every day what we knew needed to be done to advance the plan.

When I studied ISO 9001 starting in 2001, it sounded very familiar – it was the same Plan-Do-Check-Act sequence I had followed for 19 years. And why not? That’s how most improvements happen – one task at a time. Planning, developing a system of linked processes that work together; then working the plan; measuring the results consistently, and making changes carefully, after looking at the data and thinking it through.

PDCA goes by different names like Plan-Perform-Measure-Adjust, but it all comes down to the same set of activities. And you do it over and over, not just once but each time you go through the sequence of processes.

Guess which of the PDCA steps most entrepreneurs focus on? Generally, Do. We are do-ers , and we tend to keep moving forward, doing what is in front of us and conquering the next mountain. We don’t like stopping to carefully measure what happened so we can intelligently adjust the plan. Sometimes we don’t even have a plan – we just respond to the stimuli and forge ahead. Thus, we fail to consistently improve our products or services, to be more attractive to more customers.

PDCA can be installed in any business or service. Give us a call and you’ll see how easy it could be to set it up in YOURS.

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