PDCA, an acronym that stands for "plan, do, check, act," is a technique in Total Quality Management that allows organizations to make improvements in processes and methods while constantly evaluating the results. Constant evaluation of processes and methods ensures the company is always taking steps to improve the efficiency of the organization. Management and employees both must adopt the continuous improvement mentality to make significant increases in efficiency and productivity.
Companies can use the PDCA tool in a variety of situations. Total Quality Management techniques offer many benefits for manufacturing processes, but other departments such as accounting or human resources can use the tools to run the processes in the department efficiently. For example, the payroll department in an organization can implement a new method for processing employee time sheets to speed up the process. The PDCA technique allows the company to try the process with a small number of time sheets to analyze the new method before implementing it across the board.
Using the PDCA technique allows a business to test a process change on a small scale before spending on a method that may not work or that requires adjustment. The company can continue to run as usual while analyzing the affect of a change to the process. For example, a new method may require additional tools or machinery to put it in place on the production floor. Before purchasing additional tools, the organization can test the process to ensure that it will bring about results such as an increase in productivity or an improvement in quality.
The "check" step of the quality management tool ensures the company analyzes the effect of a change before going full steam ahead. When the data shows a process or new method does not have the effect planned, the "act" step provides an opportunity to tweak the new method to correct a problem.
Once a new technique or process method is successfully checked and analyzed, the company can expand the method with the assurance it will provide the expected benefits. For example, when a new production method reduces waste material and improves the quality of the product, the method can be incorporated across the board to expand the efficiencies in the organization.