What is the PDCA Cycle?

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, often regarded as the father of modern quality control, popularized the PDCA Cycle, also known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle, as a widely-used continuous improvement process tool in business management. The PDCA Cycle is a foundational tool in the Total Quality Management (TQM) approach and is essential in the Lean manufacturing methodology.

This methodology is instrumental in improving processes and products in an organization. It encourages a culture of continuous improvement and problem-solving. The PDCA Cycle’s versatility allows its application across various sectors, including manufacturing and services. It serves as a valuable tool for managing change and implementing continuous improvement in any process.

What are the stages of PDCA?

The PDCA Cycle, integral to continuous improvement and quality management, comprises four distinct stages:


This initial stage focuses on identifying a problem or goal and developing a strategic approach to address it. It involves setting clear objectives, collecting relevant data, and planning the necessary steps for implementation. The planning phase is critical for laying a solid foundation for the subsequent steps.


In this phase, you put the plan into action on a small scale initially to test its efficacy. It’s about executing the tasks and interventions outlined in the planning phase. This step is crucial for understanding the practical aspects of the plan and for initial observations.


This stage involves monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of the ‘Do’ phase. It’s about analyzing the results and comparing them against the expected outcomes to identify any discrepancies or areas of improvement. This evaluative phase is essential for learning from the actions taken and understanding their impact.


Based on the insights gained in the ‘Check’ phase, this final stage involves making adjustments to refine and improve the process. If the change proves to be ineffective, the cycle starts again from the ‘Plan’ stage. If successful, standardize and implement these changes on a broader scale. This phase emphasizes the importance of iterative learning and continuous improvement.

Each stage of the PDCA Cycle is critical for ensuring continuous improvement and effective problem-solving within an organization.

Further Resources on PDCA Cycle:

  • Books and Articles by Dr. W. Edwards Deming: For publications by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who extensively wrote about the PDCA Cycle and its applications in quality management, you can refer to the W. Edwards Deming Institute. They have a dedicated page on the PDCA (PDSA) Cycle that includes various resources: W. Edwards Deming Institute – PDCA Cycle.
  • Online Courses and Workshops: The Center for Competitiveness offers an online training course on PDCA, which is based around the PDCA management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. This course provides participants with a structured method to manage change using Lean tools: Center for Competitiveness – PDCA Course.
  • Professional Organizations: The American Society for Quality (ASQ) provides a comprehensive collection of resources, including articles, books, and case studies related to the PDCA Cycle. These resources can be beneficial for understanding various aspects of PDCA and its application in quality management: ASQ – PDCA Resources.

Explore more about different process improvement terms in our BPM Glossary.

Louie A

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Louie A

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