Originally introduced by Shewhart in 1939 and subsequently modified by W. Edwards Deming in 1993, The Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle has proven to be foundational to Process Improvement, Quality Improvement, and Operations Management.  For business owners who are seeking a simple, back-to-basics approach to improve quality, the following is a look at the inner workings of the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle and the ways you can use it for continual improvement of business performance.

What is the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle?

Essentially self-explanatory, the PDSA cycle emphasizes the importance of planning for success, and studying the results for lessons learned. Derived from Shewhart’s Specification-Production-Inspection cycle of 1939, Deming expanded on the model by involving the whole organization, not just design and production.  Deming asserted that the constant interaction between design, production, and sales, driven by leadership commitment to improvement, created both the need and opportunity to introduce change, with the objective of continually improving business results.  Picture a leadership hub at the center of the PDSA cycle, asserting the importance of leadership commitment in the implementation of the PDSA cycle.

ISO 9001 Quality Management System requirements are organized around the PDSA cycle and reinforce Deming’s concept of involvement of the whole organization in Quality Management. The most recent version of the ISO 9001:2015 standard expands the role of leadership to include understanding the external and internal context of the organization and defining how the organization handles risk management and seizes opportunities for improvement and growth.

How Can the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle and the ISO 9001 Standard Improve Your Business?

Once the cycle is understood, it can be implemented to help your company in the following ways:

A. Continually Improve Quality Within Leadership and Operations

One of the top ways the PDSA cycle and the ISO 9001 Standard can improve results is by providing a framework for the continual improvement of quality within leadership and operations processes. A model that is simple to grasp and implement, the PDSA cycle is highly favored for its ability to produce results regardless of the complexity of the situation. Moreover, as an innate adversary to stagnation, once this cycle is set in motion, it drives the ongoing search for improvement opportunities.

B.  Ensure Optimum Process Solutions are Implemented

In addition, the PDSA cycle ensures Optimum Process Solutions. Once this cycle is introduced to the staff as a means of improving operations, employees at all levels of the organization are compelled to use the cycle to optimize operations processes. Rather than engaging in trial and error, employees utilize this cycle to reduce speculation and provide the best process improvement solutions in the shortest time span.

C.  Improve the Overall Quality of Your Organization

Given that technological industries are highly competitive, learning how to continually improve your business is vital for sustainability. One of the best reasons to use the PDSA cycle is that, when incorporated into all activities, quality of all facets of the organization begins to improve. The mere act of implementing this cycle into your daily operations ensures that your business will have an almost self-sustaining method of continuously uncovering and addressing concerns, and improving results.

Overall the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle is easy to learn and offers an array of benefits. Incorporating this cycle into your business can provide immediate and substantial improvements to virtually every aspect in your company.


Learn how the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle can be customized for your business:

Contact Martin Rybiak P.Eng., Edmonton Certified Management Consultant, for a free consultation.

Phone: (780) 405-9417
Email: mrybiak@opsinc.ca