Rob Thompson asks if an improvement system first devised in the 1930s is still relevent among the various other quality assurance schemes developed in recent years.
The PDCA (or PDSA) Cycle was originally conceived by Walter Shewhart in 1930s, and later adopted by W. Edwards Deming. The model provides a framework for the improvement of a process or system. It can be used to guide the entire improvement project, or to develop specific projects once target improvement areas have been identified. Shame that it’s now out-of-date.
For example we now have standardise-do-check-act (SDCA) cycle which apparently standardizes and stabilizes the current processes, while PDCA improves them. SDCA refers to maintenance and PDCA refers to improvement; these become the two major responsibilities of management.
However I agree with Jamie Flinchbaugh over at the Lean Blog:
“PDCA is not the big sexy lean tool like kaizen or hoshin kanri. It’s a simple concept, but one that if you keep chuggin’ along with it, will deliver outstanding results.”
On the same blog Mark Graban suggests that it was too bad the PDCA cycle couldn’t take place BEFORE 3.2 million (Nintendo Wii videogame system) units had been sold.
So whilst Six Sigma is still paying-off at Motorola where they utilise complex statistical tools, just focus on simple models, and give the PDCA cycle a try. You never know perhaps it could even help to “improve” the attitude and reputation of some bad managers.
By Rob Thompson.
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